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Mum's $100k loss: Woman upset with POSB

LARGE WITHDRAWALS: Branch Machines, introduced last year, allow withdrawals of up to $200,000 per transaction and without a daily limit.


    Jun 27, 2016

    Mum's $100k loss: Woman upset with POSB

    AN ELDERLY woman lost $100,000 in savings to phone scammers and her daughter is partly blaming it on a new type of bank machine that allows up to $200,000 in cash to be drawn in one go.

    Called Branch Machines (BM), they were introduced last year by DBS Bank in 14 of its branches.

    They look like an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and allow customers to carry out banking transactions such as cash deposit and withdrawals, with help from staff.

    Up to $200,000 in cash can be taken out from a BM in one transaction and there is no daily withdrawal limit. For DBS/POSB ATMs, the maximum amount per transaction is $2,000 and its default daily withdrawal limit is $3,000.

    The woman had gone to a BM to take out $100,000 in cash on April 19 and another $100,000 two days later upon instruction from scammers.

    Earlier this month, the police said more than $4 million had been lost by victims of phone scams since March, in the more than 50 reports that they had received.

    The victims received calls from scammers impersonating overseas officials, telling them that parcels containing illegal items had been shipped in their names.

    C. Ong, 45, said her mother started getting such calls at home from April.

    They claimed to be from the Chinese police and told the 78-year-old that she was being investigated for corruption.

    The scammers warned her against informing anyone.

    Worried for her family's safety, she visited the POSB branch at Marine Parade and was directed to a machine for cash withdrawal.

    She took out $100,000 in cash and proceeded to a remittance agency in City Plaza to transfer the money to an account with the Bank of China, Beijing West Branch.

    Two days later, she was pressured to do another transfer so she went back to the same bank branch to take out another $100,000 from the BM.

    The first remittance agency declined to perform the large transfer, and the second remittance agency called her daughter, Mrs Ong, for verification.

    That was when the family found out about the scam and made a police report.

    "While we grieve at the loss of a huge sum of money... we hope the bank will tighten its processes in order to protect the vulnerable elderly," said Mrs Ong, a school administrator.

    She added that alarm bells should have started ringing as her mother's largest withdrawals from POSB had been $5,000 over the counter or less than $1,000 from the ATMs.

    "It is very shocking that a remittance agent is able to spot an unusual transaction that POSB was not able to."

    Mrs Ong said she reported the matter to the bank and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. They said they will investigate.

    A DBS spokesman said further customer authentication, such as querying the reasons for withdrawal, by its staff is required for large cash withdrawals via BMs. POSB is a subsidiary of DBS Group.

    In the case of Mrs Ong's mother, the bank spokesman said its staff had engaged her both times but she said the cash was for home renovation.

    Its staff also recommended that she withdrew the funds in a cashier's order or a cheque.

    Video footage revealed that she showed no signs of duress.

    In response, Mrs Ong said the staff who attended to her mother were Malay and could not communicate well with the elderly woman, who spoke mainly Mandarin.