Thursday, 10 January 2013

An Unfortunate Encounter With a Swindler

My colleague recently share her story with me over lunch and I've invited her to share it here with everyone so that hopefully none of us will fall prey to similar scams in future. Stay safe everyone!

Photo credit: caddymob via photopin cc

Hi, I’m a colleague of Madeline and was asked to share about my personal experience with a suspected scam incident.

It was 12.30am; I had just finished killing zombies in the arcade and was "shooed" out of the building to the car park. After my usual search for the car, I drove out of Tampines Mall and saw a man walking down the exit slope. Wanting to avoid him, I manoeuvered the car away from him to allow him sufficient space to walk. However, I heard a loud bang at the back of the car but did not see the man when I checked my mirrors.

My friend, who was on the passenger seat, was completely oblivious to the presence of the man at this point. After alighting and checking the back of my car, I found the thin and frail man lying on the ground, seemingly unconscious. The driver from the car behind mine came out to help and suggested that I informed the police but I thought the ambulance would be more appropriate since a police report would be made at the hospital anyway.

While speaking to the staff over the emergency hotline, the man suddenly spoke and requested for a lift to the nearest clinic. Thinking it would definitely be quicker for me to drive him to the hospital than to wait for an ambulance, I informed the staff on the line that I’ll drive the man to the A&E instead.

At this point, I was only worried for his safety and was afraid of touching him in case of any broken bones. Besides, he was also groaning in pain and looked really frail. I rejected his request to be taken to the nearest clinic as there wouldn’t be an x-ray machine and drove him to Changi General Hospital instead.

Then, my phone died and I felt lost, not knowing what to do. Thankfully, my friend had a hint of battery life on her phone and called one of our mutual friends, who was a doctor, over to help. Looking at the state of pain he was in, we requested for the nurses to attend to him as soon as they could as we were extremely worried that he could have serious injuries.

But right before his turn into the triage, he whispered to me, “Miss, can you please don’t say that you knocked me over but that I fell? I don’t want a police report and a scenario where we end up suing each other? Just pay for my medical bills and compensate me will do."

I told him not to worry and that I'll be honest with the doctors and nurses. Although I was worried that I’ll get demerit points and all but more than that, I was worried for his safety and blamed myself for being negligent.

His turn to the triage came quickly and he immediately requested for painkillers. Then, there came a dead giveaway. The senior nurse looked at him and commented, “This isn’t your first time here right?” to which he acknowledged.

Denser than iridium, I still did not understand what that meant. As we walked back to the waiting area, my doctor friend arrived. When the man found out that my friend was a doctor, he suddenly stood up from the wheelchair that he was sitting on and said he felt a lot better. Moreover, he vehemently refused to get an x-ray, insisting that he had gotten “professional opinion” that he did not have a fracture and that an x-ray would kill his cells. Obviously by "professional opinion" he meant my doctor friend but I swear, my friend said nothing of that sort!

He continued to refuse an X-ray even after much persuasion and asked for a specific brand of painkillers instead. It was about 3am in the morning so I wasn’t paying attention and did not catch the name of the painkiller. However the doctor rejected his request, stating that he did not need it and gave him an alternative painkiller instead.

At this point, I finally begun to realise what was really happening.

During payment, the man did not want me to pay the hospital directly and instead wanted me to pass the cash to him. Confused, we asked for his rationale. He explained that it was in case he required follow-ups at the polyclinics and wanted me to pay for all the follow-ups.

Having being to the polyclinics and A&E a few times for work and personal injuries, I knew that the polyclinic would require him to get an X-ray before treatment. Holding to our ground, we persuaded him to go for an x-ray at the hospital rather than the polyclinic as it would incur additional costs. He repeatedly refused while we repeatedly insisted.

Finally, after talking further to my doctor friend, he agreed to not hold me responsible for any future follow-up and that I only need to pay for the damages that day (my wise doctor friend even made the man sign an agreement that he wrote on a sheet of paper).

But as I was heading to the cashier to pay, the man stopped me and once again requested for cash. He then admitted that he was under MSW and could claim for the treatment so he wanted money. Anger struck me; I rejected his request, paid the cashier directly and demanded for copies of the receipts in order to get his details.

Then he mumbled something about his phone getting damaged in the incident and wanting compensation for it. I was already quite angry at that point so I took his phone and went to the nearest 7-11 (thank goodness my other friend knew where it was) to buy to exact model. He then mumbled about how he lost his Hi-card in the incident and wanted a compensation of $27, the value he claimed was in it. I refused and only gave the man $15, the cost of a typical Hi-card, only because 7-11 ran out of cards.

Then came the most ridiculous part. As we had his home address, we offered to send him home but he refused, claiming that he had to meet his friend as he lives alone and had nobody to look after him. We then offered to drive him to Tampines Mall since he had earlier claimed that he was on his way to meet his friend at the car park. But he rejected that as well and instead demanded that we drive him to Geylang Lorong 6. Even though it was close to 5 AM and we were all tired, we knew what that really meant. Already annoyed by the whole incident, I passed him $10, which was just enough for him to go home, and sent him off in a cab.

Having gone through so many things, the reality that this could be a scam didn’t strike me and I sat, crying till close to 7am with my friend, feeling guilty and angry at my recent spate of many events. It was only after analyzing the situation logically that my friend convinced me that I was not at fault.

Not wanting this event to occur again and wanting the social worker of this man to be informed, I made a police report the following day. Every single police officer at the station suspected it was a scam (imagine my relief) and as he did not manage to get much money from me, they could not lodged it as a cheating case. Not having the ability to contact his social worker as well, I’m sharing this story here hopefully to warn others and create awareness about such incidences.


Thanks Amber for sharing your story. That was a terrible experience indeed and I don't think I would have reacted as calmly as she did if it were me. I'm sure that such scams happen more often than we think so we should be on our guard in case it ever happens to us.
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