She went to the branch every other day and cried, shouted at and threatened bank staff. It was scary, he said, but he kept his cool.
After he roped in the police’s Anti-Scam Centre to convince her, she finally agreed not to transfer any money over.
Another case in September saw him and his colleague, assistant branch manager Sheila Yap, being yelled at by a woman in her 60s.
The woman had also fallen for a love scam and requested to transfer more than $20,000 to another account.
While at the bank, she was on the phone with the scammer, calling him “bao bao” (“baby” in Mandarin).
The two colleagues showed her news articles on scams and asked if she had seen her lover before, but the woman only grew angrier.
Said Mr Wong: “She scolded us, ‘You black-hearted people are stopping me and my ‘Baby!’ It was so loud customers outside the room asked us what happened.”
Ms Yap called the police, who arrived and spoke to the woman, finally convincing her to make a police report.
Said Mr Wong: “We actually felt troubled by how she had scolded us, but at the same time we knew we had to help her. If we don’t, our customers will lose all their hard-earned money.”
Days later, she returned to the bank and thanked them for stopping her from making the transfer.
Ms Grace Goh, an investigation specialist in DBS’ anti-scam team, met a female customer in October who fell for a government impersonation scam.
The woman had received a call from “DBS” about a purported transaction, and was directed to another call with the “Monetary Authority of Singapore”, who told her to make payments to a certain account.
The first transaction worth almost six figures went through. But the second, also worth almost six figures, was blocked.
Ms Goh, whose job involves calling customers whose transactions are flagged, said the woman insisted they were for investments.
She was condescending and sarcastic, saying she knew this was not fraudulent because she had made a lot of investments, said Ms Goh.
Eventually, the woman mentioned the “DBS” call. Ms Goh found the bank never called her that day, and convinced her to make a police report.
Ms Goh said customers who make legitimate transactions also vent their frustrations on bank staff when asked necessary verification questions.
She said: “Sometimes we get frustrated, and feel sad customers are not appreciative, or we feel helpless, because we are just trying to help them.”
OCBC Bank’s customer service manager Wong Kin Yew, 57, recalls having to keep calm despite getting frustrated when dealing with a customer in her 60s caught up in a love scam.
The woman had gone to the bank’s Bedok branch in May and wanted to make a transfer of about $89,000 to a third party, after receiving instructions to do so from a man she met online.
She had transferred the sum to her bank account from her CPF, nearly wiping it out.
Bank staff learnt she was promised more than $2 million from her online friend.
Mr Wong Kin Yew said that while the woman was cooperative in producing documentation bank staff had asked for, she appeared to be in a trance and wanted to get the transaction over and done with.
He tried telling her it was a scam, and showed her news reports of scams to get her to see the light.
He said: “Despite what I told her, it was like she was hypnotised. After listening, she still kept saying, ‘My friend asked me to send. After sending this, I will get my $2 million.’”
Bank staff contacted the authorities, who eventually persuaded her to not go through with the transaction.
In tackling scams, bank staff suffer abuse not just from scam victims, but also from potential perpetrators.
Mr Wong Kin Yew recounted a case where a man in his 20s came to the branch in March after he could not withdraw money at an ATM.
Checks by staff revealed his account had been frozen by the authorities. The police freezes bank accounts which they suspect to be involved in illegal activities, including scams.
Not permitted to divulge this information to the customer, staff informed him he could not withdraw money temporarily.
Mr Wong Kin Yew said the irate man raised his voice at him and a colleague, eventually leaving after he was given an e-mail address to contact for more information.
A Citibank Singapore spokesman said its fraud management team detected a potentially suspicious transaction of $50,000 last year.
The customer had insisted on the transfer, so the bank’s staff alerted the authorities, who stopped an attempted impersonation scam, said Citibank, without divulging further details.
A police spokesman said when scam victims refuse to cooperate with bank staff, the police would engage them. The victims would be advised to stop further transactions and make a police report immediately.
Dr Ken Ung, a psychiatrist at Adam Road Medical Centre, said scammers brainwash victims by preying on their mental states and emotions such as fear, love and greed.