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Everything you need to know about kidnap scams in 60 secs

I’m sure you have been hearing plenty about scams recently, especially with the news about the number of kidnap scams spiking up from last year. POSB was put in the limelight recently when the story of how POSB Branch Manager Kina Neo helped foiled a potential kidnap scam last year at the branch in Woodlands.

In 2014, the number of kidnap scams has tripled to 422 from 178 the year before, 40 of which were successful. In the first half of 2015 alone, there were 241 scams reported to the police of which 22 victims had paid up $98,100 with the highest amount paid at a whopping $45,000.

Some of us might wonder, how can someone be cheated out of their money so easily, especially when they have knowledge of these conmen running around? Well, we’d say that when you’re placed directly in these situations, you tend to lose your composure and panic, a state of mind the conman wants you to be in.

Let’s take the kidnap scam that was foiled for example. Imagine someone who sounds like your son begging and pleading for you to save him, followed by a sinister voice threatening the well-being of your son unless you do his bidding.

Then to make things worse, he warns you not to hang up the call and orders you to go to the bank to withdraw a huge amount of money. With him listening on the line, you’re afraid to voice your distress to others. Instead, you can only follow his orders mindlessly; and honestly, how does a sum of money compare to the life of your son?

In that situation, can you honestly say that you will not react in the same way as that woman? I dare say that I might just do the same thing in her shoes. It was lucky that the bank staff present at the branch that day were alert and helpful, or I’d hazard that the large sum of money she withdrew that day will just be given to the ‘kidnapper’.

So, what can you do if you, unfortunately, met with such a situation? The police advised the public against transferring money to such callers and contact your loved one to verify the situation.

Ask the caller for identification of your loved one
When we say ask for his identification, we don’t mean the kidnapper’s. Ask the kidnapper to identify your loved one. There was a case of Technical officer Siok Siew Hua, 62, who recalled receiving such a call. He almost believed the person crying on the line to be his son but when he asked for his son’s name, the person on the line just hung up.

The conman could be operating like telemarketers, just dialing a number at random to try their luck.

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Check with your loved one
Sometimes, the caller might be able to identify your loved one. Don’t panic yet and instead, call the person who was allegedly kidnapped. In some cases, the scam might be done by someone who is acquainted with them, so they are able to identify your loved one easily.

And remember to report such attempts to the police. After all, you might have escaped this time but if the perpetrators aren’t caught, their next victim might not be so fortunate.

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