Son Pulls A Phone Scam On 60-Year-Old Mum To See Her Reaction
Our boomer parents, who may not have spent their formative years on the Internet, would not be well-equipped with an instinct to suss out dubious phishing links.
Considering how rampant and sophisticated some scams have become, I decided to put my mum through the ring of fire and posed as a scammer to test how woke she was.
How exactly does a son go about tricking his unsuspecting 60-year-old mother, you may wonder? I first had to devise a scam, specially crafted to trick her when she least expected it.
Little did I know that the tutee was about to be schooled hard in return.
Devised a 2-part phone scam to test my mum
For starters, I tapped on my own experiences with online scams. Everything from phishing links, impersonation of authorities, to dubious investment scams, and too-good-to-be-true surprise lottery scams.
But to truly know the ins and outs of any scam, I decided to seek professional help.
Since our boys in blue have been issuing warnings regularly, I found myself dissecting every scam advisory from the Singapore Police Force over the past 3 months as part of ‘research’.
I narrowed it down to the 2 most common scams faced by Singaporeans—a phishing text scam and a robocall parcel scam.
With my scam mediums locked in, I went about crafting an enticing proposition, one that would compel my mother to hopefully surrender her confidential bank info and/or hard-earned money to yours truly.
Sending an SMS about free supermarket vouchers
Observing her purchasing patterns, my mother spends the most on groceries and household items. No surprise as she has a family of 5 to care for.
With this caveat in mind, I wiped out my text messages to her on her phone, changed my name to “NTUC FairPrice”, and sent her an old-school SMS, revealing she’d won a host of vouchers.
As seen on my mum’s phone. This text is obviously not from NTUC FairPrice.
Image by MS News
I clicked ‘Send’ and waited in anticipation. I got out of my seat and pried open my room door to spy on my mother who was nonchalantly watching the television in the living room.
Seconds passed, and she finally looked at her phone, after a notification chimed.
Soon after, I heard her murmur the words “$100 voucher” and I knew I had her hooked. My eyes lit up thinking I got her good but after a few swipes on her phone screen, she stopped and got up from the chair.
I closed the door and retreated back to my seat, reverting back to my aloof self.
Mum knocks on my door after receiving text
Soon, she knocked on the door and showed me her phone screen while saying,
“Eh, I won this voucher from FairPrice leh. $100 voucher some more. Can help me check if this is real or not ah?”
Hiding the grin on my face, I asked if she could do it herself, urging her to click on the link.
However, she retorted and said,
“I think it’s a scam leh. Usually scam messages like this one. Short and always got link to don’t know where. Can help me see if real?”
I was taken aback by her response. Though it was a valiant effort, it was a pity that she’d snuffed out the scam so quickly.
Embarrassed, I told her that I’d take over from there and give FairPrice a call to check the validity of the message. As she shut my room door behind her, I knew I had to change my plans.
Robocall scam about an undelivered package
Now, it was back to the drawing board—the scam needed to be way more convincing and something was missing. Then it clicked.
Our household received packages extremely often, ever since the endless year end sales cycle hit. To coincide with the endless 11.11, 12.12, Black Friday & Cyber Monday sales, it was worth a shot. Robocall parcel scam, you’re up next.
I put together a script for my friend to read through, impersonating a delivery service that failed to deliver a package to our home address. I also plucked out a voice modifier from the Internet that magically changed my friend’s voice into that of a robot’s.
We waited for a few days before attempting this robocall scam, with many rehearsals held in between. The goal this time was to extract her credit card details, password, and potentially approve the ‘dubious’ transaction.
The day of reckoning came and I reconvened with my friend at his place to conduct our experiment.
Holding our collective breaths, we dialled my mother’s number and proceeded according to the script.
“Hello, we are calling you to inform you of an undelivered parcel. Press 1 to arrange for delivery again,” my friend calmly articulated.
My mum seemed to hesitate for a while, but she pressed 1. This prompted my friend to speak again.
“We need a payment of $100 to reattempt delivery. Could you visit [insert fake website link here] to key in your details for verification? Let us know your name, address and banking details.”
As he uttered the last words, we were met with the deafening silence, followed by a beeping noise. My mum dropped the call.
Puzzled at her reaction, we waited a few minutes before trying again but we were cut off even before we told her to press “1”.
Mum drops off call & texts in family group chat instead
I refused to believe that our whole plan was foiled so I returned home for a showdown with my mother.
Before stepping into the threshold of my flat, I even paused to strategize for the right time to raise the topic casually, so as to not ring any alarms.
Not soon after, I received a WhatsApp message in the family group chat before I reached my room. Turns out, my mother had written an entire paragraph about her experience with the parcel scam I had devised.
Image by MS News
In the message, she described how the robotic voice was a dead giveaway and it was one of many calls she had received in the past few weeks.
She also knew about the parcel scams from text chains she was sent to by family and friends.
In the latter half of the message, she also warned us about setting credit card transaction limits and not sending our passwords to others online even if a “member of the family” requests for it.
Revealing the truth to a mother who knows best
Surprised by how woke she was, I decided that coming clean would be the best way forward.
After all, what I wanted from all of this was to teach my supposedly unknowing mother some vital scam prevention tips. And look how that turned out.
I approached my mother and broke the whole scheme down, from the planning all the way down to the execution.
While I wasn’t sure how she’d react, she eventually laughed off my futile attempts before going into a well-deserved lecture.
She recounted that since she’d fallen victim to a credit card phishing scam in the past, she’s always been wary of offers that were too good to be true.
The next step was to place checks and balances wherever possible, so as not to let history repeat itself.
Safeguarding banking info with DBS’ anti-scam tips
In all my conversations with my mother, she has never crossed me as someone who was this clued up on scam prevention.
I still find it hard to believe that the same person who struggled with printing documents on a computer was able to discern the truth behind this would-be scammer’s web of lies.
My mum, however, attributed this mainly to DBS’ advisory that pops up every time she uses her DBS digibank app.
My mum said she has been seeing this DBS advisory regularly these days
Image by MS News
In any case, we’ve listed some quick scam prevention tips to share with the fam below.
1. Set your notification thresholds
Pro-Tip: When a transaction exceeds a certain amount, you’ll be notified immediately. This applies to both banking and payment related transactions.
2. Set your transaction limits
Pro-Tip: Pick a comfortable amount to set as your daily transaction limits for ATM cash withdrawals, debit spend and funds transfer. This helps to prevent large transactions from occurring if your account was compromised.
3. Keep your banking info safe & use the DBS Digital Token for verification
Pro-Tip: Do not share your banking info (user IDs, passwords, banking OTPs) with anyone, even your loved ones. Verify your transactions before approving them. Every DBS Digital Token has built-in enhanced encryption security as an extra layer of protection.
4. Beware of phishing links & learn to identify them
Pro-Tip: Learn to spot fake links by checking for typos & strange symbols in hyperlinks. In general, treat all texts from third-party organisations with caution, and look for OG sources.
5. Temporarily ‘lock’ or ‘unlock’ debit or credit cards
Pro-Tip: You can enable or disable your cards for overseas or online use if you are not actively using them. This is a new feature in the DBS digibank app.
Finally, def consult your trusted family member or friends in person, if you’re unsure if something is legit or not.
Here’s a list of best practices condensed into an infographic for easy sharing with the fam – cc. the uncle who lurks on WhatsApp with the routine ‘Good AM’ messages.
We’re all more woke than we think
Gone are the days where our transactions are tracked via random scribbles on our POSB bank books.
With how easy it has become to send and receive money, our chances of falling for elaborate online scams have also increased exponentially.
That’s why learning to draw the line between what’s genuine and what’s fake, will always be a work-in-progress.
However, if I could glean just 1 lesson from this social experiment, it would be that we should never underestimate how woke our tech noob parents are, especially when it comes to sussing out phishy deals.
With the proper safeguards in place, we can collectively put an end to scams and prevent our loved ones from getting conned.
This post was brought to you in collaboration with DBS.
Featured image by MS News.