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Woman in Singapore loses over SGD110K in durian tour ticket app scam

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – A brief moment of excitement turned into a nightmare for a part-time bakery worker who had over USD81,000 (SGD110,960) stolen from two DBS bank accounts by scammers after her Android phone was infected with malware.

Lie, 52, on September 10 saw an advertisement on Facebook for a SGD28 ticket to Kulai, Malaysia on a day-tour durian trip, from a tour agency called “GD Travel and Tour”.

After a positive experience on a different durian tour in 2022, she contacted the seller on Facebook.

The seller texted Lie on WhatsApp and instructed her through voice messages to download a third-party app called EG Store on her phone to browse the tour offers.

“I wasn’t suspicious of him. He had a strong Malaysian accent and sounded very sincere.

He was patient and helpful with my questions about the tour so I believed him,” she told The Straits Times.

Lie eventually did not buy the ticket as her friends did not want to go. She did not provide him with her banking details or address.

An ad for a durian tour from GD Travel and Tour. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

She did not think much about the incident until a week later when she was trying to pay her credit card bills.

She noticed that she could not log into her Internet banking app after multiple attempts.

Her son, who wanted to be known as Teo, called DBS immediately, thinking its digital banking services were disrupted.

It was only when a bank officer told Teo that his mother’s account was locked on September 13 due to large transfers of US dollars that they realised something was amiss.

The scammers had raised her transaction limit and transferred over SGD110,000 out of two DBS savings accounts to five different bank accounts.

Lie said she had set aside that money for her retirement and Teo’s wedding in 2024.

“I cry every day and cannot sleep. This was my money saved over three decades. I deleted all the banking apps in my phone because I’m so scared,” said Lie, who has three children.

Lie sought help from DBS and reached out to Jalan Besar GRC MP Wan Rizal to waive the amount that was drawn from the bank accounts. She made a police report on September 18. The police confirmed that investigations are ongoing.

When contacted, DBS said it has dedicated resources to “act swiftly and assist” customers who are scammed, including a dedicated fraud hotline. It also has a safety switch function on the digibank app, which would temporarily block access to funds.

“We will assist these customers with necessary follow-up actions, which include making a police report, or replacing their cards/re-securing their accounts,” DBS said.

“While we continue to adopt multi-pronged measures to strengthen fraud prevention and recovery, customers remain the first line of defence in safeguarding against scams.”

Lie questioned how the large sums in foreign currency were transferred out of her accounts without any notifications sent to her. “Why didn’t I get any e-mails or one-time passwords (OTPs) from the bank (to verify the transactions)? What if I hadn’t checked my bank account? I wouldn’t have known that my money was stolen,” she added.

There have been similar scams recently in which “sellers” send victims payment links that download malware into their phones, enabling scammers to control their devices remotely and drain their bank accounts.

Following OCBC Bank’s lead, UOB and DBS recently announced greater controls aimed at protecting customers against malware-enabled scams.