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'Anyone would let their guard down': 62-year-old man loses over S$40,000 in CPF savings to malware scam

CNA spoke to the victim, who had his CPF Ordinary Account and Special Account savings wiped out overnight, after trying to buy fresh seafood online.

'Anyone would let their guard down': 62-year-old man loses over S$40,000 in CPF savings to malware scam

The seafood advertisement on Facebook was the victim’s first contact point with the scammer. (Screenshot: Singapore Police Force)

SINGAPORE: Recovering from a kneecap displacement surgery at home, Mr Ang (not his real name) did not think anything was amiss when he came across an advertisement on Facebook for a shop selling fresh seafood on the evening of May 31. 

The 62-year-old, who works in engineering, thought it would be a good idea to have some seafood while resting at home, and buying it online would be more convenient than going to the market.

The price of the seafood was around the price of what it would cost at the market, so he did not find it suspicious, since it was not the first time he had come across similar ads. 

Mr Ang clicked on the ad and was taken to a website, but found he could not purchase anything from the links there. He ended up going through the reviews on the page and after finding two WhatsApp contact numbers, he decided to contact the seller directly instead. 

“Because they offered cash on delivery, and it would be delivered directly to my house, I thought it was very convenient,” he told journalists during an interview on Jul 5. 

“And the way he (the seller) spoke, it was very friendly. Anyone would let their guard down.” 

What began as a simple act of ordering groceries online ended up being a scam. Mr Ang lost more than S$40,000 (US$29,595) of his Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings overnight, wiping out the savings in his Ordinary Account and Special Account. 

On Jun 24, the police announced that nine people were arrested for their suspected involvement in a recent spate of malware scams targeting Android mobile device users.

Victims lost more than S$221,000, including more than S$114,000 in CPF savings, since late May, the police then said. 

After contacting the seller on WhatsApp, the person encouraged him to try ordering the items online again. When this failed, he sent Mr Ang what he claimed to be a link to an online order form. 

“After I clicked the link, something like an app appeared in my phone. The app seemed to be searching for something, there was a loading circle on my screen,” Mr Ang said. 

While Mr Ang thought this was a little unusual, he thought nothing more of it, and the seller gave him more instructions. 

When he still failed to find a page with any product listings, the scammer communicating with him on WhatsApp offered to help Mr Ang put in a direct order, and asked him to transfer S$5 via PayNow as a confirmation fee. He also asked Mr Ang to send him a screenshot of the transfer. 

“He said we could use that to take it as a confirmation, then I’ll help you do a manual order … He said, ‘I’ll send you an order code’, but until now, I haven’t gotten the order code.” 

In the Jun 24 cases, malware was used to compromise mobile devices, resulting in unauthorised transactions from the victims’ bank accounts even though they did not reveal their internet banking credentials, one-time passwords or Singpass credentials to anyone.

In some cases, like Mr Ang’s, CPF savings were withdrawn and credited to victims' bank accounts before being transferred out.

According to the police, victims had responded to advertisements on social media platforms like Facebook and were instructed by scammers to download mobile apps from third-party sites or via WhatsApp, resulting in malware being installed on their mobile devices.

After communicating back and forth on WhatsApp, Mr Ang told the scammer he wanted to give up buying the seafood and go to sleep as it was about 11pm. 

“He said ‘No problem, the S$5 is in, I’ll definitely send you the goods. You can just pay for the seafood when it arrives,’” Mr Ang continued. 


“After that, I thought I was very clever. I went into my phone settings to try and restrict the permissions for the app that was downloaded into my phone, and I thought everything would be fine.” 

He also tried deleting the app, but did not succeed. 

When he woke up at about 6am the next morning, he discovered multiple messages from DBS, indicating that a bunch of transfers had been made from his account throughout the night. 

Each transfer was not more than S$5,000, and there were more than 10 transactions made via PayNow between 1.30am and 4.30am. 

“I quickly called the bank to check if it’s true that a lot of money was transferred out of my account. I asked if there was still money in my account, and they said I still had about S$10,000 inside,” Mr Ang said in Mandarin. 

“So I thought, actually I have around that amount in my account. So something was not quite right, since it didn’t seem like there was any money that got transferred out.” 

He asked the bank to block his bank account, and they suggested he make a police report. He went to Bedok Police Station to do so on Jun 1. 

The investigation officer later called him to ask for a more detailed statement from his bank and that was when Mr Ang found out that the scammer had transferred more than S$40,000 from his CPF account to his bank account, and then transferred it out. 

“At that moment, I was very heartbroken. Why did the money just disappear without reason?” he added. 

Unlike in other scams, the scammer did not ask for any passwords or essential login information, which is part of why Mr Ang did not think anything was amiss. 

He also did not realise that the money had been transferred out from his CPF account because he could only see the notification about the transfer in the CPF app and his email. 

“But if you don’t take note of this, I can’t be checking my CPF account or email every second of the day. I don’t think I go into my CPF app more than once a year.” 

He also made the mistake of writing down his passwords and other login details in a note-taking app on his phone, he shared. 

“Maybe that’s how they found my details,” he added, stressing that others should learn from his mistake. 

“We all have a lot of passwords these days. If you use an easy password, you’re scared they’ll be able to guess it. But if you use a lot of passwords, you really can’t remember them all and have to check every time you use it,” he said with a chuckle. 

Reflecting on his experience, Mr Ang cautioned older people: “What we learned last time can’t beat the scammers of today. They’ve developed a lot. 

“The best defence is not touching these online things at all. You can look at it, but don’t get sucked in. We often think about other scams in the media, and after you hear about it a lot, you feel numb to it. But when you meet it, the way each scammer operates is different, so you might fall for it.” 


He also hopes that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as banks, can come up with more safety measures to deter scammers. 

“On the bank’s side, the settings are very easy to change. I’ve tried it before. Once I decide to transfer the money, the money goes out,” he added. 

“After the money goes out, the bank notifies you about the transfer. But at that point, the money has been transferred, so you can’t get it back. I hope the bank can consider this when putting safety measures in place.” 

While additional confirmation or verification measures may be more troublesome, it could be safer for users, he added. 

03:04 Min

A man was one of eight scam victims aged between 55 and 80 that ended up losing S$124,000 of their CPF savings in the first half of 2023 due to malware installed on Android devices. Marcus Tan reports.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in Parliament on Tuesday that the government was considering insurance to protect Singaporeans from CPF scam losses. 

Dr Tan was replying in parliament to Associate Professor Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang), who had asked if the government was "considering initiatives along the lines of insurance" as a protective measure against online scammers cheating Singaporeans of their CPF savings. 

Hours later, the Ministry of Manpower said the CPF Board has "no intent" to consider the use of insurance schemes to protect CPF members who are victims of scams.

The CPF Board is a statutory board under MOM.

Since the incident, Mr Ang has warned his friends, colleagues and family about being scammed. “They were quite scared when they heard about it because losing your CPF is a serious matter, so they also took some precautions,” he added. 

Mr Ang has since opened a new bank account with OCBC and transferred all his money there for “peace of mind”. 

“If you lose your CPF, you’ll be heartbroken. It’s something you’ve saved for since you started working until you’re old, and if it just disappears without a reason, you’ll really feel very sad,” he added. 

“But even if you’re sad, you don’t have any way to get it back. You can complain to the different platforms, but their excuses are all the same - they need to investigate. And you’ll need to wait for very long. As you keep waiting, your heart will just keep bleeding.” 

Source: CNA/hw(sn)


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