OCBC staff prevent man from losing $190,000 in ‘secret mission’ scam

He was told he had to help in a secret mission with a cyber security crime department to catch criminals.

But the operations manager, in his 60s, first needed to transfer $190,000 to a Hong Kong bank account. The money, he was told, would be used as bait to lure the crooks who had purportedly used his Singtel WiFi network for illegal activities.

It was a scam, and he was fortunate not to lose his money thanks to the efforts of staff at OCBC Bank.

Last Friday, the police presented Community Partnership Awards to 108 individuals and 15 organisations, including OCBC, for their contributions in detecting and preventing scams.

Last year, more than $5 million worth of potential losses, in 91 scam incidents, were foiled through the intervention of the award winners.

This was an almost four-fold increase compared to the amount intercepted in 2018, said the police.

In the case of the operations manager, he made the transfer via OCBC’s internet banking service on Nov 8 last year, not realising it was a scam.

But OCBC service officer Hilsham Helina Mohd Sahilman, 41, felt it was unusual for customers to make large single payments and checked his banking pattern to confirm before informing the police.

Speaking to reporters at the Police Cantonment Complex in Outram Park last Friday, Ms Helina, an award recipient, said: “He didn’t want to share what the money was for and just said it was for a cousin in Hong Kong. If it involves an unusually large amount of money, it’s usually a scam.”


Thankfully, Ms Helina, who has been working at OCBC for 15 years, and OCBC’s fraud surveillance unit reversed the transfer and recalled the monies from the receiving bank.

Another award recipient Mr Chi Xiaobiao, 52, an employee at remittance agency Hanshan Money Express, prevented a woman from being cheated of $15,000 in a lucky draw scam in May last year.

The woman, who is in her 40s, thought she was paying the $15,000 processing fee to claim a $600,000 prize.

Mr Chi, who works at the agency’s People’s Park Complex branch in Chinatown, was convinced it was a scam and did not make the transaction. Instead, he called the police.

Mr David Chew, director of the Commercial Affairs Department, said Covid-19 has accelerated digitisation which has resulted in more scams, with tech-related scams being one of the most common this year.

There were 317 tech support scams reported from January to June this year, an increase from the 30 reports lodged last year during the same period.

The total amount cheated via such scams last year was $340,000 and it jumped to $15 million for the first half of this year.

Mr Chew said: “The Community Partnership Award is a testament that the partnership between the police and our community is important in combating this scam trend.”