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By Vivienne Lim
The New Paper
Jun 10, 2016
The woman in her 50s looked fearful as she entered the SK Jewellery shop in Clementi Mall, asking to buy plenty of gold jewellery.
Mrs Jacelyn Wong, 23, a customer service executive, thought it was odd.
She told The New Paper yesterday: "The lady didn't mention much. She just took out all of her credit cards, asking us to swipe the maximum amount for each credit card.
"When asked, she just said she wanted to sell off all the gold for cash."
Mrs Wong felt something was wrong.
So she asked the customer why she needed such a large sum of money.
The woman, who had walked into the shop with earpiece plugged in, told Mrs Wong to be quiet, and proceeded to buy $4,000 worth of jewellery.
But she eventually confided in Mrs Wong, who kept asking her if everything was okay.
According to her, the person on the other end of the phone line wanted her to transfer money overseas.
The man claimed to be a police officer from the "Shanghai Police Division" and demanded an administrative fee, saying he had a parcel under the woman's name which contained illegal items.
Mrs Wong asked the woman if she truly had a parcel in shipping and the woman said no.
Sensing it was probably a scam, Mrs Wong persuaded the woman to make a police report and even accompanied her to the Clementi Neighbourhood Police Post to do so.
Mrs Wong said: "I have been reading a lot about parcel scams on Facebook, so I was aware of it. I knew that something was wrong."
The incident happened on May 29.
Thanks to Mrs Wong's intervention, the woman did not transfer any money to the scammer.
She also did not ask for a refund from SK Jewellery, saying she will wait for the price of gold to rise before she sells off the gold jewellery she had bought.
"She was very fearful and kept saying 'I don't know', when I questioned her. Her emotions probably affected her judgment," said Mrs Wong.
To thank Mrs Wong and her colleagues at SK Jewellery for helping her, the woman bought them egg tarts after making the police report.
Mrs Wong may have been able to intervene and prevent the woman in her 50s from being scammed, but not all are so lucky.
A victim of a parcel scam in her 40s, who wanted to be known only as Madam Quek, was asked by a scammer, who spoke to her in Mandarin, to transfer money to a bank account in China.
Madam Quek told TNP: "I did not buy anything and was not expecting any parcel, but I believed him because I was frightened and worried.
"They said they will return my money if nothing illegal was found in my parcel."
She was scammed of $130,000. Madam Quek realised she had been duped more than a month later, on May 30.
"I only realised I was cheated of my money after my daughter shared a story with me of someone who fell prey to the parcel scam," said Madam Quek.
She eventually made a police report and is now "extremely wary of strangers who call or message her".
50 people cheated of $4m Parcel scams started to emerge here at the end of March, with the highest surge of these scams reported in April.
Ms Yolanda Yu, head of the Financial Crime Policy and Operations Branch at the Singapore Police Force, said that to date, at least 50 people have fallen prey to parcel scams.
According to her, a total of about $4 million has been scammed from these 50 people.
The biggest amount lost from a single incident for a parcel scam was $2.3 million.
The conmen, who usually spoke Mandarin, would typically call the victim and claim to be from an overseas courier company.
They would then transfer the line to someone posing as a Chinese government official, saying that illegal items such as fake passports and fraudulent credit cards had been found in a parcel under their identity.
To resolve the issue, a sum of money would have to be transferred.
Otherwise, the victim would be reported to the police.
Recently, parcel scammers changed their tactics - they pretended to be from the Singapore Police Force or local courier companies such as Singpost.
Most parcel scammers also utilise Caller ID Spoofing tactics, to change their overseas numbers to local ones so as to appear more convincing.
So what are the red flags that one should spot to avoid being scammed?
Ms Yu said that the first red flag is when someone asks you to transfer or remit money overseas.
The second red flag is if someone requests that you receive an amount of money into your bank account, and then transfer those funds to another account.
The funds could be illegal and your bank account could be implicated for facilitating the movement of illegal proceeds.
The police also advise not giving out personal information and bank details to callers over the phone.
You should call a trusted family member, relative or friend for counsel before acting.
Those with information related to such crimes or who are in doubt should call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000.