Dah Sing Bank is facing questions over an alleged operational lapse that led to one of its customers — a 61-year-old female — being cheated out of almost all her life savings by a phone scammer.
The mid-tier lender has been accused of failing to contact and verify the identity of an account holder when handling a transaction involving a huge sum of money, negligence that resulted in the client suffering a loss of nearly HK$2 million, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
At a press conference on Sunday, the victim, a person surnamed Lau, said she has been feeling miserable as she has lost virtually all the money that she had saved up for her senior citizen years, following to a fraudulent bank transfer.
According to the woman, whole saga began in July last year, when she received a call from a person claiming to be a financial intermediary, who turned out to be in fact a scam artist.
Learning that the woman and her brother needed a bank loan, the scammer told her to deposit HK$2 million in her Dah Sing Bank account as a pledge before an application for a loan with an interest rate as low as two percent could be filed on her behalf.
Then in mid-August, the scammer asked her to sign two loan documents, a move that is now suspected to be a ploy to get hold of her signature so that it could be forged subsequently to put in a request for a fund transfer.
The elderly lady later deposited nearly HK$2 million into her account as told, only to receive an alert on Sept. 2 that the entire amount had been transferred out.
She received a shock, given that she had not put in any application for transfer of the money to any other account.
Suspecting something amiss, she asked the bank to show her the signed outward remittance application form. The suspicion proved correct as the signature was indeed fake.
She then informed the police, and called on the bank to halt the money-wiring process.
However, the bank replied the transfer had already been completed. The money had gone into an account with Hang Seng Bank, Dah Sing said, advising the customer to follow up on the matter with Hang Seng Bank.
After receiving a report from Lau, the police froze the Hang Seng Bank account in question, but by then most of the money in that account had already been re-transferred elsewhere.
Questioned by media, Dah Sing said it is highly concerned about the incident but declined to reveal any details, merely saying it will fully assist in the police investigation.
The Democratic Party, which was approached in March by Lau for help, said Dah Sing Bank should bear very huge responsibility for the loss suffered by the woman, as the bank had been grossly negligent in relation to account security procedures.
Party member Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, who is a Sham Shui Po District Councilor and a chartered financial analyst, said the bank may be guilty of five “nots”－not doing proper check on the fund transfer application, not inquiring about the relationship between the transfer applicant and Lau, not confirming Lau’ personal data, not inquiring about the purpose of the transfer, and not having requested a letter of authorization.
According to inquiries by the party into multiple banks in Hong Kong, they either do not allow a non-account holder to make money transfer on behalf of the actual holder, or if they do they will call the actual account holder for confirmation.
However, in the case of Dah Sing Bank, all it needs is two staff members to verify the signature before processing.
Police authorities, who listed the matter as a fraud case, said they have put the holder of the account that received Lau’s money on a wanted list.
An investigation is ongoing, but Lau is not too hopeful that she will be able to recover all her money even if the culprit is arrested.
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