Victims lost $7.7 million to tech support scams in 4 months
'IT-savvy' businesswoman tells of how she was duped of $94,000 by men posing as Singtel and CSA staff
A week into the circuit breaker, a businesswoman received a call to warn her that hackers were targeting her.
The caller who said he was from Singtel told her that nine hackers, including three from Singapore, had compromised her IP (Internet Protocol) address and two bank accounts.
The 61-year-old Singapore permanent resident, who wanted to be known only as Ms Bavara, said: "He gave me an employee identification number without me asking, and said an officer from the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) would contact me."
They later told her they needed her help to track down the hackers by making a "fake transaction" with her bank accounts.
When she was doubtful, they produced a letter of authorisation from her bank and assured her she would be reimbursed.
But the two men turned out to be scammers who duped Ms Bavara of about $94,000 from her bank accounts.
They had tried to siphon off $170,000, but her bank stopped some of the transactions after becoming suspicious.
The business consultancy owner, who has been in Singapore for 20 years, realised she had been conned only when the police called her about the suspicious transactions flagged by her bank.
She was among numerous victims who lost at least $7.7 million to tech support scams from January to April this year, the police said yesterday.
The amount is a staggering 4,400 per cent increase from the $170,000 lost in the same period last year.
One victim was swindled of $958,500, the highest sum lost in a single case.
About 70 per cent of the victims were aged 40 to 75, the police said.
The scammers usually pose as tech support staff from telcos or government agencies to frighten victims into believing their tech devices had been compromised.
The victims are then convinced to download software applications such as Teamviewer or AnyDesk to fix the problem.
Instead, the software gives the scammers remote access to their devices and accounts.
Ms Bavara, who considers herself to be IT-savvy, said she fell for the scam because she is not an "expert doubter".
She told reporters during a conference call yesterday: "The impersonators were very confident, polite, knowledgeable. I asked all kinds of questions and they had good answers to everything. I was pretty much overwhelmed with all the details," she said.
"I was frightened, and it was pretty convincing when they asked me to help trap these supposed hackers."
Ms Bavara said she did not verify their identities with their relevant organisations because they had offered their credentials without prompting.
She hopes others can learn from her experience and make thorough checks before trusting any caller.
Singtel issued an advisory last year on scammers impersonating its staff, and urged consumers to protect themselves.
"If you receive an unsolicited phone call that you suspect could be a scam, please hang up," the company said. "We do not ask for Wi-Fi passwords, router numbers, bank accounts or credit card details during troubleshooting calls."
A StarHub spokesman gave similar advice, and said its staff will schedule an appointment at customers' homes if issues cannot be resolved over a call.
A police spokesman advised the public to be wary of any caller claiming to be staff from a telco or government agency.
"Do not follow instructions to install applications, type commands into your computer or log on to your online banking accounts," he said.
He added that no telco or government agency will ask for personal details or access to bank accounts over the phone.
To provide information on scams, call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness
Learn more about scams by calling the National Crime Prevention Council's anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg