A fake “durian tour” left a 52-year-old part-time bakery worker in Singapore duped of her life savings amounting to 111,000 Singapore dollars (approximately $81,200).
A tempting tour: The victim, identified only as Ms. Lie, had her money siphoned from her two DBS bank accounts by con artists who infected her Android phone with malware.
On Sept. 10, Lie purportedly stumbled upon a Facebook advertisement for a $28 durian day-tour ticket to Kulai, Malaysia, offered by “GD Travel & Tour.” Lie contacted the seller, who she noted as having “a strong Malaysian accent” and sounding “very sincere.”
An elaborate con: The seller reportedly directed Lie to switch to WhatsApp, where she received voice messages instructing her to download a third-party app called EG Store on her Android phone. While she complied, Lie said she ended up not proceeding with purchasing the tour ticket as her friends declined to go. She also said she did not disclose her personal banking details or address during her interaction with the seller.
Shocking discovery: When Lie encountered difficulties accessing her banking app a week later, her son, identified as Mr. Teo, contacted DBS Bank. To their horror, they discovered that her account had been locked on Sept. 13 due to suspiciously large transfers of US dollars.
As it turned out, the scammers had raised her transaction limit and stealthily transferred over $81,000 from her two DBS savings accounts into five different bank accounts. Lie said she had been saving the money for over three decades, which was earmarked for her retirement and her son’s wedding in 2024.
“I cry every day and cannot sleep,” Lie lamented. “This was my money saved over three decades. I deleted all the banking apps on my phone because I’m so scared.”
A desperate plea for help: Lie has since sought assistance from DBS and reached out to Jalan Besar GRC MP Wan Rizal hoping to recover the stolen amount. She also filed a report with the police, who are currently investigating, on Sept. 18.
“Why didn’t I get any e-mails or one-time passwords (OTPs) from the bank (to verify the transactions)?” she asked. “What if I hadn’t checked my bank account? I wouldn’t have known that my money was stolen.”
Fighting fraud: When sought for comment, DBS urged victims to contact their dedicated fraud hotline and highlighted their safety switch function on the app to temporarily block access to funds. The bank also said it is rolling out an anti-malware tool on its DBS/POSB app to detect and block malware.
Singapore has recently been plagued with similar scams involving payment links that download malware onto victims’ phones, allowing criminals to remotely control their devices and drain their bank accounts.