SINGAPORE: In an incident unfolded at the POSB branch within Compass One mall in Sengkang, an elderly man, believed to be a victim of a love scam, attempted to transfer S$3,000 from his bank account, leading to the intervention of vigilant POSB staff and the police.
The incident, which was featured in a DBS Bank Facebook post, occurred around lunchtime and underscored the importance of being vigilant, particularly in light of the increasing prevalence of scams in Singapore.
POSB staff’s vigilance thwarts potential scam amid routine transaction inquiry
When the elderly customer, a man in his 70s with a walking stick, sought assistance to transfer the substantial sum, bank officer Ms Rohani Hassan initiated routine inquiries, which have become a standard practice to counteract scams in over-the-counter transactions.
Rohani, aware of the heightened risk of scams, inquired about the recipient’s identity by writing questions on a piece of paper due to the customer’s hearing impairment.
His response however raised suspicions as he claimed the transfer was destined for a courier company to facilitate the “release” of a personal parcel upon receipt of the funds.
This response triggered strong “alarm bells” in Rohani’s mind, leading her to decline the transfer and instead wrote a note to the man, stating her belief that he was on the brink of falling into a scam.
“I can’t make the transfer for you, because I believe that you’re about to be scammed,” she told the elderly man.
In response, the customer grew visibly agitated, vehemently expressing his desire to proceed with the transfer, exclaiming, “It’s my money, why can’t I make the transfer?!”
This outburst resonated through the branch, hushing the previously bustling lunchtime atmosphere.
The account was flagged for suspicious transaction
Faced with the escalating situation and an uncooperative customer, Rohani sought the assistance of Siew Lay, the Deputy Service Manager at the branch.
Siew Lay swiftly intervened and proceeded to verify the payee’s account, only to discover that it was a personal account, contrary to the customer’s earlier assertion that it was a business account.
Furthermore, the account had been flagged for suspicious transactions, further fueling the concerns of the bank staff.
Informed of these red flags, the elderly man’s frustration only grew.
He voiced his intention to close his account with DBS and pursue the transfer through another bank.
Recognizing the severity of the situation and the emotional intensity often associated with love scams, Siew Lay took the necessary step of calling the police.
Promptly responding, the police officers successfully convinced the elderly gentleman to leave the bank premises.
POSB staff receives recognition for saving the elderly man from scam
Subsequent investigations revealed that the man had indeed fallen victim to a love scam, further underscoring the vulnerability of individuals in these situations.
According to previous experience, victims of love scams tend to be more emotionally charged, which is why the man was so bent on doing the transfer, Rohani said.
Rohani and Siew Lay were honoured for their roles in preventing the scam, receiving letters of appreciation from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in September.
Siew Lay, who has dedicated over 35 years to POSB, emphasized the essential role of branch staff as the “last line of defence” against scams.
In an ever-evolving landscape of scams, she highlighted the importance of staying updated with the latest tactics to protect customers, as there is no worse feeling than witnessing customers fall victim to scams.
Siew Lay’s commitment to safeguarding customers was evident as she noted that she’d rather face an upset customer than risk their vulnerability to scams.
Love scams on the rise in Singapore
Singaporeans lost S$660.7 million to scams in 2022, marking an increase from $632 million in 2021, according to the Singapore Police Force.
The police have reported that more than 53% of scam victims were aged between 20 and 39, which is contrary to popular belief.
While phishing scams were the most common in 2022, with 7,097 cases, love scams were also prevalent, with 1,152 cases reported.
In fact, there is an evident rise in online dating scams, and the number of love scams is expected to increase with more people signing up for online dating sites.
Two of the 13 scam syndicates busted in 2022 were linked to internet love scams. Victims of love scams lost a total of S$33.3 million, with an average loss of $28,945 per victim.
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