SINGAPORE — A Singaporean netizen has complained on Facebook about her experience as a customer of United Overseas Bank (UOB) regarding the bank’s handling of fraudulent transactions.

Last week, a Singaporean netizen who goes by the name Joie Ng posted a lengthy complaint on the Facebook group ‘Complaint Singapore’. Ng claimed that fraudulent transactions had been made on her less-than-a-month-old Krisflyer Credit Card, without any One-Time-Password (OTP) being triggered.

She revealed that she became aware of the transactions when her phone rang in the middle of the night, and she immediately blocked her card using the UOB TMRW app.

“On 9th December 2022, 10.20pm 2 transactions without any OTP were made to ENHASA GAMES (634 BEDOK RESERVOIR ROAD #12-13 EUNOS TENAGA VILLE SINGAPORE (410634)). This company is known for selling game accounts. In other words, the scammer had used my card to make 2 separate purchases within 5 mins.”

She filed a scam case with the UOB call centre, but she did not receive any updates until December 2022.

Through investigations, I was notified that my UOB Krisflyer Credit Card was added to a mobile device with a verified OTP on 7th December 2022 at 1:31PM. I was at work and I barely noticed.

Told bank accounts and cards have to be blocked

In mid-January 2023, the netizen was informed that her case had been changed from “scam” to “fraud,” and she was told that all her bank accounts and cards have to be blocked to prevent further fraudulent transactions.

“I mentioned that I am traveling to Bangkok for 2 weeks in 2 days’ time and my accounts are to be blocked without notice? The guy from the call center mentioned that UOB will not be liable for any further scams that take place with my accounts and cards if I did not do so. ”

Ng was told the investigation would take 90 days to 1 year from this day of blocking, and the bank will get back to her by 28 January.

She criticised that she is the victim who has been scammed for something she did not purchase and that she has only one bank account which UOB blocked without a valid reason.

” Days after this blocking, my ibanking was also blocked and I am unable to access it,” she added that this causing inconvenience and difficulty in managing her finances, including late payments and lack of money.

The customer allegedly asked to pay up

Despite being a victim of fraud, Ng reported that UOB called her in February and asked her to pay for the transactions charged on her card, or face late charges and incur interest.

Ng posed the question, “You blocked all my access and my accounts are under investigation. How am I supposed to pay when I have only one bank account and am unwilling to pay the amount?” She noted that her UOB TMRW account could not be accessed and was told to visit a branch to gain access.

On 15 February, Ng visited the UOB Bishan Branch to report the matter, requesting access to her UOB TMRW account and asking for her accounts to be unfrozen.

However, the branch manager informed her that the unfreezing process can only be initiated by calling the call centre.

Ng expressed concern about the long wait time, and the branch manager promised to write in on her behalf.

Offered 40% goodwill discount if the customer paid up

On 22 February, UOB’s call centre informed Ng that she would receive a 40% goodwill discount if she made a payment.

Ng alleged that the caller threatened to withdraw this discount if she were to dispute the transaction with the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre (FIDRec).

“I have been scammed, and the lady behind the call threatened me to pay up,” Ng said.

Ng later filed two police reports and demanded a 100% reimbursement of the payment made without her authorization.

“Both UOB and the Singapore Police Force should examine this more carefully. I was told that UOB compliance did not contact my investigation officer before making such a decision.”

When asked by TOC, Ng stated that the police were unable to reveal anything else except for “investigations are ongoing.”

UOB has not followed up with Ng since she posted on Facebook.

TOC understands that all of Ng’s funds are trapped in the frozen account and she is not keen to pay for a service which she did not use.

Dissatisfaction with UOB’s security measures and customer service

The post documenting the netizen’s experience has raised concerns among UOB customers about the bank’s security measures and customer service.

Several netizens have shared similar experiences of fraudulent transactions on their UOB accounts.

Netizen Grayce Chew recounted her experience of having her UOB Krisflyer credit card compromised twice, resulting in multiple unauthorized online purchases made in USD without any notification or OTP requests.

Fortunately, as she checks her account balances daily, she was able to report the incidents quickly and received refunds from UOB within 1-2 months for the first instance, and within a week for the second instance after contacting the company responsible for the unauthorized transactions.

Netizen Michael Goo suggested that if a customer is unable to settle a dispute with UOB, they should approach FIDReC within 6 months of receiving the final reply from the bank. However, Ng pointed out that if she files a dispute, the offer of a 40% discount will be withdrawn.

Another netizen voiced her dissatisfaction with UOB’s handling of her scam case, which lasted approximately 22 months. Telco records revealed that OTPs and notifications were received 19 days after the scam occurred, while UOB insisted that the OTPs were sent to the registered phone number.

According to the netizen, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) provided her with a link to a list of lawyers to contact for dispute resolution through FIDRec.

Another netizen, Wong shared,  “Same thing happened to me 3yrs ago. UOB says this is a police case and police say I have to go after UOB for the refund (bank deducted payment as it was GIRO). 6 mths of endless calls and follow-up and basically no money back. Few K gone like that. Terminated my entire relationship with them, will never bank with them again.”

While Isabelle, another commenter, wrote, “It’s not just UOB, every bank will do this. This happened to me, but my bank was DBS. It has been locked since Nov’22 and my money is still inside. And it is a debit card so…..”

Freezing bank accounts among measures taken upon cases involving fraudulent transcations

On 24 February, Leong Mun Wai, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from the Progress Singapore Party, queried K Shanmugam, the Minister for Home Affairs, about the Singapore Police Force’s standard operating procedures when handling reports of fraudulent bank account withdrawals and debit card transactions.

In a written reply, K Shanmugam stated that upon receiving such reports, the Police would initiate investigations that involve taking statements and collecting evidence. If necessary, they would request the bank to freeze the account or deactivate the credit or debit card.

“The specific steps taken by the Police would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. ”

He added that the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams has collaborated with MAS and the Standing Committee on Fraud of the Association of Banks in Singapore to implement measures to detect fraudulent transactions and secure banking channels.

These measures include requiring additional customer confirmation for significant changes to their accounts, notifying customers of changes to contact details via registered mobile number or email address, and providing an emergency kill switch for customers to immediately freeze their bank accounts if they suspect they have been compromised.

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