S'pore cleaner, 62, loses S$330,000 savings to scammers in China, money saved over 50 years

Police investigations are ongoing.

Alfie Kwa | July 15, 2022, 02:58 PM

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A 62-year-old cleaner in Singapore lost about 50 years' worth of savings amounting to S$330,000, to a scammer who claimed to be a police officer from Shanghai, China, reported Shin Min Daily News.

The scam

Zhang Han Cheng, the victim, was recovering from Covid-19 at home in November 2021 when he received a phone call from a person who claimed to be a police officer in Shanghai.

The scammer told Zhang he was involved in a money-laundering operation, and asked him to cooperate with the investigation.

To do so, he had to open up a new bank account and transfer money to the account for them to check if the money was clean.

What made it more convincing was that the scammer on the call knew Zhang's personal information and home address, even though he had never been to Shanghai, let alone opened a bank account there.

Zhang told Shin Min that he subsequently received letters, supposedly from Chinese authorities and the Shanghai police, which convinced him that he may be in trouble with the law and needed to act.

In addition, the scammers stressed he could not tell anyone about opening the bank account or he would be in more trouble with the law.

They also added that they had installed a bug in his phone that can listen in on his calls.

During this time, Zhang's elder brother, who was delivering food to him during his isolation, said that Zhang did not respond to his call. There was even one time when the elder brother could not get through Zhang's phone for 20 minutes.

And when Zhang finally responded, he said he could not tell his older brother what was happening.

His brother added that if Zhang had told him earlier, there might have been a chance to stop the transaction.

Money taken

After his Covid-19 isolation period was completed, Zhang headed down to the bank, transferred S$60,000 and provided the one-time password of his bank account to the scammer.

Later, on Dec. 7, 2021, he checked his bank account and found that he was only left with S$49.25.

After Zhang realised he had been scammed, he was deeply affected, and could not eat or sleep.

According to Shin Min, Zhang's bank statement showed that the scammer first transferred S$14,000 on Nov. 15, 2021, and then made seven more bank transfers on Nov. 23.

He had lost S$330,000 in total.

Asked for money back

The day after Zhang found out that his savings had been wiped out, he sought help from his older brother.

Zhang's brother told Shin Min that Zhang does not understand English and would often ask him to read text messages from the bank.

But, most of the time, the texts were promotional advertisements from the bank and Zhang stopped forwarding them to his older brother.

So, on the day the money was transferred, Zhang received a text from the bank in English which he did not understand and did not let his brother take a look.

His brother reported the incident to the police and to the bank.

The older Zhang told the bank that his brother usually withdraws about S$200 from his bank account and added that when the large sum was transferred out, the bank did not pick up on it and freeze his account.

He hoped that the bank would be able to recover some of the money out of "goodwill".

Zhang's older brother met with the bank's manager three times to appeal the case, but was informed in February this year that they were unable to get back the money.

Police investigations are ongoing, reported Shin Min.

MAS measures to prevent scams

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) introduced seven new measures to improve the security of digital banking in January this year.

Among the new measures, banks will no longer be allowed to send clickable links in emails or SMSes to retail customers and the threshold for funds transfer transaction notifications to customers was set, by default, at S$100 or lower.

Top photos via Shin Min Daily News