Western Union employee foils scam
Despite being a newbie, a customer service officer suspected something was wrong when a man hesitantly approached her counter to make a money transfer last Thursday afternoon.
Miss Tessie Diaz, 39, who joined Western Union about a month ago, was right.
The man, a 23-year-old student, was being blackmailed after stripping naked during a video Skype call with an online "friend" he had met on social networking application Skout.
He told The New Paper on Wednesday (July 12) that he had hit it off with a woman who looked like a Japanese model in her 20s, and he gave her his Skype username.
"The call was on mute and she started taking off her clothes first, so I played along," he said.
"Once I was fully naked, she cut the call, which had lasted about four minutes.
"Two minutes later, she threatened me and demanded that I transfer $3,000 to her or she would send the video to all my Facebook friends."
He told her he did not have so much money and managed to negotiate it down to $150.
Worried about his Facebook reputation, he went to Western Union's Ang Mo Kio branch to make the transfer.
When asked, he told Miss Diaz he did not know the recipient of the money.
"That's what made me think it was a scam. Usually, they would know who they are transferring money to," Miss Diaz said.
After learning of the blackmail attempt, she convinced the student to make a police report.
For foiling the scam, Miss Diaz received a commendation letter from the police.
Investigations are ongoing.
Western Union Singapore vice-president Patricia Chua said employees are trained on the first day of work how to convince scam victims not to proceed with transactions.
The police's annual crime statistics show that online cheating remains a cause for concern, with 96 cyber extortions reported last year.