April 9 (UPI) -- An elderly South Korean woman was spared of a fraudulent scheme involving her life savings, following a spur-of-the-moment encounter with a local off-duty police officer, according to a local press report.
South Korean television network MBC reported Thursday the officer met the woman by chance on the streets of Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province, as she may have been preparing to hand over a large sum of money, about $25,000 in total, to a stranger on the phone.
The senior citizen had just left a local bank after withdrawing her savings and had placed the money in a bag. The scene, captured on surveillance footage, shows the woman speaking to someone on her mobile phone outside the bank's entrance.
The officer, Jeong Myeong-woo, was walking by the bank at the time, when he turned around and identified himself as police. Jeong may have found the voice on the other end of the line suspect: a young man's voice, placed on speakerphone.
Jeong said he suspected the woman was about to become the victim of a voice phishing scam, or phone fraud.
"The lady kept talking and moving...I felt this looked strange, so I watched from a distance. When she tried to get in a taxi, I knew for certain it was a [voice phishing] scam."
The woman may have been distressed at the time of the call.
According to MBC, scammers claimed her son had been kidnapped because he had not paid his debts. The voice on the call also reportedly said harm would come to her son if she did not hand over the money.
Voice phishing scams may have increased in the wake of the global health crisis in Korea.
Television network JTBC reported Thursday scammers are targeting vulnerable small businesses with false offers of government loans at low interest rates.
Seoul has pledged to provide emergency loans to small businesses, and criminals could be trying to take advantage of public confusion amid the crisis.