By Philip J. Heijmans
(Bloomberg) — Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. said it completed making arrangements for S$13.7 million in goodwill payouts to 790 customers who fell prey to an text message phishing scam impersonating the lender.
About 80% of the amount lost occurred during Dec. 23-30 festive period, at which time calls to the bank’s contact center surged by over 40%, OCBC said in a statement on Sunday. A previous figure that over 450 customers had been scammed of S$8.5 million was based on police reports made in December, and more victims came forward or were discovered this month, it said.
“OCBC Bank decided to make the full payout as a one-off gesture of goodwill given the circumstances of this scam,” it said. “We also took into consideration that our customer service and response fell short of our own expectations, that could have affected loss mitigation in some of the cases.”
The Monetary Authority of Singapore this month said it would be intensifying its scrutiny of major financial institutions’ fraud surveillance mechanisms. The scam that affected OCBC customers struck a chord in the city-state with local media reports of victims having their life savings wiped away suddenly. It sparked commentaries raising questions about safeguards amid Singapore’s push to position itself as a tech and digital banking hub.
OCBC started to make goodwill payments on Jan. 8, acknowledging at the time that its customer service and response fell short of expectations. An investigation by the bank revealed that the victims had provided their online banking log-in credentials and one-time passwords to phishing websites, enabling the scammers to take over their bank accounts, the bank said on Sunday.
There has been no further fraudulent transactions in relation to the scam over the past few weeks, it said.
(Updates first paragraph to specify bank completed arrangements for payouts)
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