How I stopped a government impersonation scam
“I really don’t know if you’re from the bank, I’m really scared now,” he cried out over the phone to me.
I was working the morning shift at the anti-scam centre in DBS when I got the notification - our detection system had just stopped a customer in his 70s from transferring almost all of his money out of his bank account.
In a heartbeat, I was on the line with him to verify if he was aware of such a transfer.
He answered, noticeably flustered, and told me to give him a minute. I could hear him setting the phone aside.
“The bank has just called me, they don’t believe me!” I overheard him talking in the distance.
My eyes widened as it dawned on me - he was on another phone, speaking with the scammer.
Without hesitation, I put his account on “no debit”, which meant money could not leave his bank account.
“Can you put down the phone on the other caller?” I asked, when he finally picked up my call again after what felt like ages.
“He’s telling me to hang up on you,” he responded.
I knew I only had minutes to convince him, and that it’d be impossible to reach him again if he hung up on me.
I also knew he didn’t trust me, so I proceeded to ask him scenario-based questions given my suspicion that he was a victim of an impersonation scam.
“Did somebody say that they’re from the government high court, for the anti-money laundering division?”
“Were you told to download an app on your phone or laptop? Do you see the cursor moving without your knowledge?”
I could feel the tides shifting. He hung up on the scammer.
I pulled up the details of his nearest police station, and advised him to make a police report. He agreed, thanked me and put down the phone. I felt my body finally relax.
This is just one of many calls that my team makes daily, and one type of scam out of a rapidly evolving playbook.
Each call and encounter helps us constantly update our tech systems with new scam detection parameters, and prevent more people from falling prey to scams.
To anyone unsure if you are speaking to a bank staff, know that we would never ask for your personal information, like bank account details, or ever ask you for money over the phone.
If you’re ever in doubt, just hang up the call and ring the bank or the organisation directly for verification. As the proverb goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry."
- Grace Goh, DBS anti-scam team