Alert UOB staff spots scammer posing as grandson of victim, 80, trying to withdraw S$40,000

He allegedly insisted on a cash withdrawal, even though the woman said the money was for a medical bill.

Zi Shan Kow | November 13, 2023, 03:23 PM

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The police commended two staff from United Overseas Bank (UOB)’s Bendemeer branch, whose vigilance led to the arrest of a scammer and prevented an elderly woman from losing her savings.

Pretended to be grandson

UOB’s branch executive Grace Ng had attended to an 80-year-old woman who was accompanied by a man who claimed to be her grandson.

The elderly woman made a request to withdraw over S$40,000, the police shared in a release.

At the branch, the woman did not interact with the man much. Ng felt it was peculiar that the two behaved like strangers.

The man also only appeared to show interest in their conversation when Ng asked for details of the bank transfer.

Additionally, he allegedly insisted on cash withdrawal when Ng offered the option of cheque or cash.

As the woman said the money would be used to pay for a medical bill, Ng grew suspicious.

Man was a foreign student

Then, when she asked for the man's identification, she noticed his hesitation.

He handed over a foreign student pass.

As the elderly woman was a Singaporean citizen, Ng immediately reported the matter to assistant branch manager Jasmine Tay, who informed UOB’s Fraud Unit.

The woman also appeared nervous and was reluctant to provide more details about her situation, which prompted them to call the police.

The police arrived at the branch and determined that the man was not the woman's grandson.

He had allegedly pressured her into going to the bank to withdraw the money, despite only having met the elderly woman a day earlier.

The man was arrested on the same day.

Man was a "document mule"

The police shared that this case was part of a larger Government Officials Impersonation scam.

Such scams usually happen over the phone, but is layered with the additional involvement of a “document mule”.

In this case, the man who posed as the elderly woman’s grandson acted as a mule.

"Document mules are those who are enlisted to help scammers physically execute the crime, to make the scam appear more realistic. Often, if a document mule is identified quickly, police would be able to swiftly effect the arrests," said the police.

Government Officials Impersonation scams are one of the top 10 scams in the first half of 2023.

The number of Government Officials Impersonation scam cases increased by 15 per cent to 369 as compared to the same period last year.

The amount of money lost to this scam type also increased by 13 per cent to S$42.8 million.

The offence of abetment by conspiracy to cheat under Section 420 read with Section 109 of the Penal Code 1871 carries an imprisonment term of up to 10 years and a fine, added the police.

Top image via UOB.