SINGAPORE: A Singaporean woman recently became the unfortunate victim of an online scam.
This distressing incident unfolded after she clicked on a link provided by an “administrator” from an alleged online store on Facebook.
The repercussions were swift, as she received a disheartening notification from her bank the following day, disclosing that a staggering S$80,000 (approximately US$58,797) had been fraudulently siphoned from her account, leaving her with a mere 24 cents.
To compound matters, the scammer possibly infiltrated her phone, deftly disabling transfer notifications. This insidious act left her completely unaware of the unauthorized transaction, rendering her helpless to prevent the fraudulent activity.
Chen Hongcai, a 38-year-old Singaporean, recently recounted her experience with the Chinese media outlet “8World News.”
On Monday (6 Nov), she came across a Facebook post promoting the recycling of used clothes, emphasizing the opportunity to exchange them for money and contribute to recycling initiatives.
Explaining that she was not after the money the company had offered, Chen said she thought that the proper way to dispose of her pre-loved clothing was by recycling them.
“Thinking back to it now, I realised that it’s strange. At that time, I didn’t notice that this company had no address and only saw that they could come to my house to pick up the old clothes,” she said.
After contacting the recycling company, an ‘administrator’ later called to inform her about the collection details and sent Ms Chen a link to choose a time slot for collection.
Ms Chen initially found the website to appear “legitimate” with no apparent issues. However, her suspicions arose later when she discovered that the company was involved in selling a variety of miscellaneous items.
It’s noteworthy that Ms Chen, exercising caution, only engaged with the website to schedule a time for the collection of her old items, refraining from providing any personal information.
Scammer suspected of remote phone infiltration, silencing transaction notifications
The next day (7th) at 9 a.m., she received a call from POSB Bank informing her that a new DBS bank account had been opened under her name, and over S$80,000 had been transferred to another account.
Reflecting on the emotional impact, Ms Chen revealed that she had eagerly anticipated the scheduled collection on Tuesday, having dedicated time to organize her old clothes for recycling.
Expressing her distress, she said, “I wanted to cry. The S$80,000 represents all my savings, the funds I relied on for my school fees. It’s a profoundly distressing situation. How am I going to manage my school fees and living expenses?”
She helplessly said, “I couldn’t believe it at the time. Typically, the savings bank sends a text message notification. This time, with such a substantial amount transferred, I received no notifications.”
“The bank informed me that the scammer infiltrated my phone to take over control remotely and close off all notifications.”
Ms Chen disappointed with bank’s response
Ms Chen disclosed that she sought assistance from the POSB branch yesterday. Following discussions with the bank manager and management, she was purportedly informed that the incident was attributed to her carelessness.
They expressed reservations about the potential difficulty in recovering the amount but offered a limited advance of S$500.
While acknowledging her own oversight, Ms Chen expressed disappointment with the bank’s response and underscored the need for improved security measures.
She emphasized the ease with which someone could exploit her identity to open a new account and transfer a substantial sum without undergoing proper authentication or triggering any notifications.
Ms. Chen poignantly revealed that the savings she had diligently accumulated over an extended period to pursue a master’s degree were now on the brink of depletion.
Having recently left her job to focus on her studies, she found herself in this dire situation within less than half a year, evoking a profound sense of helplessness.
“My bank account now stands at a mere 0.24 cents. I find myself unable to afford even a meal when I go to school today. The distress is overwhelming.”
Ms Chen’s immediate plan involves seeking financial support from her family to cover basic living expenses.
Simultaneously, she has taken proactive measures by reporting the incident to the police. As for the tuition predicament, she is contemplating potential solutions separately.
The police have officially confirmed to “8World News” that they received Ms Chen’s report, and an ongoing investigation is underway.
Online community raises alarm over suspicious used clothes recycling scam
Notably, some netizens, commenting on 8World News’s Facebook page, shared experiences encountering similar suspicious Facebook advertisements claiming to provide recycling services collecting old clothes.
A user shared their experience, stating, “I’ve faced a similar situation. It revolves around the collection of old clothes, but the prices seemed unusually high, sparking my scepticism. $15 for 100g? Does that even make sense?”
“They also sent me a link, urging me to click on it. To my surprise, a message popped up, warning me with ‘Attention! Exclamation mark! Dangerous download site.'”
“I immediately halted any further clicking. Subsequently, they called, persistently urging me to download, insisting it was safe. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation, choosing not to proceed with the download. Now, with this news coming to light, I feel a sense of relief.”
“I’ve seen this old clothes recycling advertisement too. Fortunately, my goodwill wasn’t taken advantage of. It’s really hard to guard against.”
Meanwhile, certain comments have brought attention to the bank’s accountability.
A user raised a pertinent question, stating, “Why does a savings bank permit transfers without notifying the account holder? Are the bank’s protocols designed solely for dealings with honest customers? If a customer establishes withdrawal limits, does this only apply to the customer’s withdrawals, with no safeguards against illicit activities by scam groups?”
In a similar vein, another comment asserted that the bank’s security measures warrant enhancement. The notion that an individual could effortlessly exploit the victim’s identity to inaugurate a new account and transfer substantial funds without undergoing any form of authentication or triggering notifications is both disconcerting and incredulous.
MAS-IMDA Proposal: Consumers, banks and telecoms to share responsibility in combating digital fraud
In response to the rising tide of digital fraud, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) released a detailed consultation paper on October 25.
The paper unveils a thorough framework suggesting how losses from phishing scams and similar frauds should be distributed among consumers, banks, and telecommunication companies (telcos).
At the heart of the paper is a “waterfall” approach, which serves as a blueprint for assessing liability in the aftermath of unauthorized transactions. The approach positions financial institutions at the vanguard, necessitating them to implement robust anti-scam measures.
In case of non-compliance or lapses, banks would be obligated to reimburse consumers fully for any losses incurred. This mandate reinforces the institutions’ accountability in their role as custodians of customer funds, a move expected to bolster public confidence in digital banking services.
However, the paper starkly highlights the responsibility of consumers in safeguarding their cyber hygiene. It points out that the onus is on individuals to prevent exposure to scams by maintaining digital diligence.
Under the new framework, consumers would bear the losses if it’s established that they failed to exercise reasonable care, even if banks and telcos have met their respective obligations.
The proposed strategy also entails a systematic four-stage process for managing claims, ranging from the initial submission to investigation, outcome communication, and, if necessary, further avenues for dispute resolution.
In his parliamentary address on Tuesday (8 Nov), Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan highlighted that banks and financial institutions have the option to provide goodwill payments to customers affected by scams.
He emphasized that the regulatory body has encouraged banks to be more accommodating in these payments.
These discretionary goodwill payment frameworks for scam victims are meant to complement the proposed SRF.