How I thwarted a S$3,000 love scam

"'It’s my money, why can’t I make the transfer?!' A customer in his 70s repeatedly yelled out in frustration, sitting across from me in a booth, one hand gripping his walking stick, the other gesturing in anger at me.

The usual lunchtime hubbub from the POSB Compass One branch plummeted into hush whispers, as I felt stares from everyone across the room burning into the side of my head.

He is hard of hearing, so I gestured again and again to a note I’d written to him:

“I can’t make the transfer for you, because I believe that you’re about to be scammed.”

The man had walked in half-an-hour ago, requesting for SGD 3,000 to be transferred to another account.

In light of prevailing scams, we usually ask some routine questions when processing over-the-counter transfers. I scribbled inquiries about the payee on a piece of paper.

He answered that the transfer was to be made to a courier company, so they could “release” a personal parcel meant for him. Alarm bells blared in my head.

Now came the hardest part – informing the customer of a potential scam. I jotted multiple explanations of this, to no avail. I then requested for help from Deputy Service Manager (DSM) Siew Lay.” - Rohani Hassan, bank officer

“I rushed over after witnessing the commotion, and read the questions written by Rohani. I asked for the payee’s account number so I could run additional checks – and discovered that the account had been flagged for suspicious transactions. It was also a personal bank account, instead of a business account like he mentioned.

I conveyed this to him, but he grew angrier, insisting that he’d like to take another queue number to close his account with DBS, and make the transfer from a different bank.

The bank has a close relationship with the police force when dealing with scams, so I called the police hotline for help. They arrived within minutes and convinced the customer to leave the branch with them.

It turned out that the man was the target of a love scam. From our experience with previous cases, scams of this nature tend to be more emotionally charged, hence his insistence.

I’ve been with the bank for over 35 years, and I’ve witnessed scams become more and more elaborate. Sometimes branch staff are the “last line of defence” in protecting our customers from being scammed so we do our best to keep up with the latest scam modus operandi.

It’s never easy dealing with an upset customer, but I’d rather face their anger than risk them getting scammed. There’s no worse feeling than witnessing customers reporting that they’re victims of scams.” - Siew Lay, Deputy Service Manager, POSB Compass One Branch

For Siew Lay’s and Rohani’s involvement in preventing this scam, they received letters of appreciation from SPF in September 2023.