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Pre-school teacher loses S$4,400 in sophisticated malware scam

SINGAPORE — An unsuspecting preschool teacher, Diana Vigneswari V Ramachandran, found herself S$4,400 poorer last Friday after falling prey to a sophisticated new kind of malware scam targeting her bank account.

Diana discovered the unauthorized transfer from her POSB Bank account to an unknown UOB account via the PayNow platform at 2.31 am on Friday (7 Jul), while she was still asleep. The money had been wired out of her account without her knowledge or approval.

She immediately contacted both the police and her bank to report the incident.

She suspects that the breach may have originated from a suspicious app she had downloaded two months prior.

The app, advertised on a Facebook page for dog grooming services, prompted Diana to provide her personal details and potentially her bank account information, despite her not making any purchases.

Despite warnings about the app’s potential dangers, Diana proceeded to use it and later found it to be lagging.

After being informed that it might have been a scam, she deleted the app, checked her bank account for any unauthorized transactions, and blocked and deleted communication with the pet grooming service on WhatsApp.

Although she did not find any unauthorized transactions in her account at that time, she began noticing unusual activity on her phone, such as sudden screen flashes, suggesting possible remote access by unauthorized users.

Despite her efforts to secure her phone and finances, the scammers successfully logged into her digital banking platform on Friday, consequently draining her account of S$4,400.

After conducting a forensic investigation on her phone, the police performed a factory reset.

As a safety measure, the bank temporarily locked Diana’s digital banking access, leaving her with a mere S$86 remaining in her account.

Diana, who is single and self-dependent, told TOC, “I contacted the bank and went down yesterday to Jurong Point DBS to ask for a loan of $500. They were unable to because my digibank and ibanking were not available thanks to the hackers and scammers. The bank, as a safety precaution, temporarily locked it. I was able to transfer out my remaining money of $86. However, the scammer took everything else.”

“I don’t know how to survive on the amount I have left until the end of the month after being hacked and scammed,” lamented Diana.

In the meantime, Diana has reached out to the CEO of DBS Bank and the Minister of Communication and Information, Ms Josephine Teo, for help, but she has yet to receive a response.

In Singapore, banks are not required to compensate victims of online bank fraud. In January last year, OCBC reimbursed S$8.5 million (US$6.3 million) to 469 customers who fell for an SMS phishing scam in December 2011 out of goodwill.

In the United Kingdom, banks are required by legislation to compensate victims’ losses for transfers made due to APP scams (Authorized Push Payments). This applies in cases where users at a business send money to a bank account controlled by fraudsters.

Androids user warned from downloading apps

Diana’s incident contributes to a growing list of similar scams impacting Android users recently, prompting a warning from the Singapore Police Force.

At least two individuals reportedly lost an aggregate sum of S$99,800 from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings after encountering similar deceptive ads on social media platforms.

Victims were asked to download Android Package Kit (APK) files, containing hidden malware that grants scammers remote access to sensitive data stored on victims’ devices. In some instances, scammers even tricked victims into providing their Singpass passcodes and bank credentials.

The police urge the public to exercise caution, warning against the download of APK files from third-party or dubious websites due to potential malware risks.

They advise users to keep their devices updated with the latest security patches and to report any fraudulent transactions to their banks immediately.

For more information on scams, the public can visit or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688. Information on such scams can be reported confidentially online at or via the police hotline on 1800-255-0000.

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