Woman almost loses $30k in Chinese official impersonation scam
She nearly lost $30,000 in an impersonation scam because the fraudsters kept hounding her on the phone. But she was saved thanks to an alert bank employee.
The woman, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lin, told the media in an interview organised by the police at the Woodlands West Neighbourhood Police Centre last week about her close shave with the scammers.
Madam Lin, 64, had just arrived home from the food store where she works on March 4 when she received a call from a woman claiming to be from DBS Bank. The caller told Madam Lin that she had opened a bank account in China in December and had spent $3,888.
The caller told her to report to a DBS branch in 30 minutes, otherwise her bank account would be forfeited. When Madam Lin declined, the woman suggested she call the police.
Without hanging up, the call was transferred to another caller posing as a police officer from the Ang Mo Kio police department. The person told her this was a case for the police in Beijing and again transferred her call, this time to a man claiming to be a Chinese official. The man said her accounts had been used for money laundering.
Madam Lin, who lives alone, said the man raised his voice when she suggested she call the local police or consult her family. "They threatened to imprison me and warned me not to implicate my family by telling them so I was too scared."
The next day, the "official" told her to empty her bank accounts and pass the cash to an officer who would verify it and return it to her in two days.
On the way to the bank at Causeway Point, she was constantly on the phone as the "officials" would call her immediately whenever she hung up. She withdrew $14,000 from her OCBC Bank account before making her way to DBS to withdraw the remainder of her savings, amounting to a total of around $30,000.
Growing suspicious, she asked a DBS employee if they would ever call a customer to withdraw money. He quickly led her to a room and found out she was being scammed. He helped her call the police and the fraudsters hung up.
The number of cases of scammers impersonating China officials has been increasing.
From August to November last year, the police received 242 reports of such scams, with victims cheated of at least $10.8 million.
The police advise members of the public not to provide personal details or panic if they receive such unsolicited calls.
Madam Lin said: "I was fortunate not to be scammed. I felt I should share the news so that others, especially old people, can learn and not get cheated."