SINGAPORE: A quick-thinking UOB deputy manager has been lauded for preventing a woman in her 70s from falling victim to an online love scam. The woman had intended to withdraw $500,000 to send to a man in Europe whom she claimed was her seriously ill husband. Following careful questioning, Ms Teo Shaw Leng discovered the woman had already withdrawn $300,000 from another bank for the same purpose.

Ms Teo, who attended the woman at the UOB Paya Lebar Center branch in early August this year, became suspicious upon hearing the woman’s statement. A message from an overseas number on the woman’s phone read, “Honey, are you okay?” raised further concerns. Taking the woman aside for questioning, Ms Teo learned that the purported “husband” was someone the woman had only known online for about six months, and they had never met in person.

Recognizing the potential scam, Ms Teo promptly informed her superiors and the bank’s fraud investigation team, leading to the freezing of the woman’s bank account. With the cooperation of the police, Ms Teo spent four hours convincing the victim to reconsider her decision, ultimately preventing a substantial financial loss.

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Ms Teo was among 82 employees commended at UOB’s first fraud prevention award ceremony on Thursday (7 Dec). The ceremony recognized employees who successfully prevented at least one customer from falling victim to scams between July last year and June this year.

Mr Benny Chan, managing director of group channels and digitalisation at UOB, said that every bank employee, whether branch staff on the front line or staff on investigation and support behind the scenes are doing their best to help fight fraud.

He also thanked the Singapore Police Force and the Anti-Fraud Centre for their cooperation and support. The sharing of intelligence between the authorities played a crucial role in preventing UOB customers and other banks from falling into scams.

Figures released by the Singapore Police Force in July revealed a 64.5 per cent increase in reported scam cases from January to June 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Despite the rise in cases, the total amount lost by victims in the first half of 2023 slightly decreased to $334.5 million from $342.1 million in the corresponding period in 2022.

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At the award ceremony, National Crime Prevention Council chairman Gerald Singham praised the awardees’ efforts, noting that scams pose a significant challenge in the current era. Acknowledging UOB’s proactive role in fighting scams and stressing the importance of shared responsibility in combatting such crimes, he said:

“Scams are really the scourge of our era. In the early decades of Singapore’s independence, fighting crime might have been easier as they were physical crimes. If there is a murder, a murderer is physically in Singapore… Scams are very difficult because many of the perpetrators are not in Singapore.”