A 60-year-old Singaporean had five family accounts cleaned out after falling for a scam where he believed a bogus cop from China, who accused him of money laundering
He thought he was protecting his family’s savings when he cooperated with the police officers but ended up losing close to $270,000 from five POSB family accounts in eight days successively last month.
It was started one morning when a man claiming to be a policeman, called and told him that a female bank employee who previously contacted him had been arrested abroad. He was informed that his accounts, which had been incriminated in her crimes, would be frozen.
But the freezing could be avoided if he called the Chinese police officers and followed instructions for them to help.
The man gave his details to the bogus police and by his order applied for an Internet banking token – a gadget he had never used before.
Following order further, he then called a Chinese number and spoke to a man named Liew for up to an hour every day. About seven times a day, he was asked to push a button and read out codes.
It was not until almost two weeks later when he found out that five of his family’s bank accounts, which were linked to his name, had been cleaned out.
The money from his children and his sister accounts joint with his account had been transferred to one of his own and then drawn out in sums of between $417 and $2,029.
This was done multiple times in a row, mostly recorded as a transaction to a merchant under D2Pay – a direct debit payment system. But there were also other inter-bank fund transfers made.
The man, who asked not to be named, said, “It was as though I had been hypnotised, I believed everything they said.”
“They told me not to update my bank book, or they would tell the Monetary Authority of Singapore to hold my accounts.”
His two children, both were in tertiary institutions, found that money had vanished from their bank accounts and they asked him about it. He answered them that he took the money out for investments.
He had only recently transferred money that he received from their insurance policies into their accounts.
He has since come clean with them and reported the case to the police.
The man said the money was needed for his family’s expenses and children’s education.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. My life savings… are all gone just like that,” he said.
He asked the bank why it failed to alert him when multiple transactions were made but he was told that the case is under police investigation. The bank also told him to close his accounts. POSB is a part of DBS Group.
The case was one of many such cases of China officials impersonation scam which had risen from 179 cases in the first half of the year to 249 cases from July to September 2016.
The police said, the total amount that victims lost was at least $21 million from January to September, with one exceptionally lost $2.38 million.
DBS spokesman said the bank is unable to comment on this specific case as it is under police investigation.
Editor’s note – No matter how tough the bank verification is, the only weakness to the system is the account holder who has access to the money. The bank cannot babysit the account holder and ask what reason is the account holder withdrawing the money out for. What is amazing in such stories is the sheer fear that one has with self-claimed authorities even though the person had done nothing wrong.