SINGAPORE: A 68-year-old woman, known only as Madam Abdul, fell victim to a financial scam that cost her over S$72,500 within a mere 15 minutes.
She had downloaded a third-party app with the intention of selling her used kitchen appliances online, only to discover that the app was malware, allowing scammers to access her Android phone and siphon money from her POSB savings account.
This is not the first reported case of scams involving the sale of used items.
According to The Straits Times, at least 21 individuals have fallen victim to such scams, resulting in losses of over S$210,000 in malware-related fraud.
Typically, these scams begin with victims responding to ads and communicating with scammers on WhatsApp to agree on prices for their second-hand items.
Subsequently, the scammers request the victims to download an Android Package Kit (APK) containing malware.
This APK grants scammers remote access to the victim’s device, enabling them to steal bank credentials and passwords.
The victim’s phone would then experience malfunctions, often becoming unresponsive, and in some cases, even powering off spontaneously.
Ultimately, the victims will soon discover unauthorized transactions from their bank accounts.
Facebook ad lures woman into scam involving pre-loved items and malicious app
On Sept 23, Madam Abdul, a customer service officer, was lured by a Facebook advertisement from a supposed recycling company called E-Recycle, offering attractive prices for pre-loved furniture and electronics.
She was drawn in by the offer, which provided a range of S$30 to S$100 for each second-hand item, including free pick-up.
Following her initial interaction with the so-called buyer via Facebook Messenger, she continued their conversation on WhatsApp, with the intention of selling her steamboat set and grill.
They exchanged messages on WhatsApp late into the night.
The following day, she had a phone conversation with the buyer and inquired if he was interested in purchasing her leather suitcase.
During the phone call, he mentioned that he had sent $50 to her using PayNow and would settle the remaining amount when collecting and appraising her items, but when she checked her POSB digibank app, the money was nowhere to be seen.
Madam Abdul assumed that the payment transfer would take a while, so she didn’t pay much attention to it.
She was later instructed to download a third-party app called I-Recovery to list her items for collection by staff members.
However, during a call with the buyer, Madam Abdul’s phone screen started to malfunction, and she was unable to control it.
Disturbed by this, she promptly informed the buyer of the issue.
He attempted to ease her concerns by claiming her phone had faults, which raised her suspicions as her phone had functioned normally before their conversation.
In response, Madam Abdul directly confronted him, asking, “Are you a scammer?”
He denied being a scammer and even took offence at the comparison to scammers posing as mooncake sellers.
Woman loses savings earned over four decades
Alarmed by the situation, Madam Abdul turned off her phone, contacted POSB, and realized that the scammers had increased her transaction limit and transferred about $68,500 from her savings account, followed by another S$4,000.
Devastated, Madam Abdul, who had diligently accumulated this money over a span of four decades, reached out to POSB for support in freezing her account and obtaining a replacement ATM card.
Additionally, she reported the incident to the police, and they are presently conducting an investigation.
She had saved this money for her retirement, insurance, and medical needs.
“When I heard that almost 90 per cent of my savings were lost, I wanted to cry but no tears came out. That was my money saved over four decades. I knew about scam cases but still got tricked. I felt frustrated and foolish,” said Madam Abdul, who has one son.
Madam Abdul and her son, Mr Hakim, hope to recover the lost money.
“We had read news about such scams, but didn’t realise that the threat was so close to us. She thought scammers would pose as sellers, not buyers. This is probably a new tactic, and she wasn’t aware of,” the son added.
Madam Abdul has taken precautions by changing her phone and obtaining a new ATM card to safeguard her finances.
Sylvia Lim proposes for banks to reimburse victims
Against this backdrop of escalating scams, Sylvia Lim, Workers’ Party (WP) chairman, delivered a powerful adjournment motion in Parliament on 18 September.
She asserted that banks should take full responsibility for reimbursing scam and malware fraud victims.
Her motion highlighted the alarming rise in scam victims and the unauthorized transactions targeting Android users, regardless of their banking affiliations.
Arguing that banks should be the safeguard against such threats, Ms Lim called for a re-introduction of physical tokens for two-factor authentication and extra precautions for vulnerable customers.
She also underscored the need to consider international benchmarks, emphasizing the proactive measures adopted by banks like the UK’s TSB in deterring scams from their onset.
However, her plea was met with resistance from Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry.
He argued that there must be a balance between fairness and accountability. Stating that full restitution might diminish personal responsibility and vigilance, Mr Tan underscored the significant strides the Monetary Authority of Singapore has taken in fortifying digital systems and emphasized the consumer’s role in maintaining digital diligence and cybersecurity.
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