Australians falling for bank impersonation scams

Tuesday, 04 April, 2023

Australians falling for bank impersonation scams

The ACCC’s Scamwatch received over 14,000 reports about bank impersonation scams last year, with consumers losing more than $20 million in savings. The ACCC says the total losses to phone and text scams in 2022 totalled more than $169 million, a significant increase over the preceding period.

Reports indicate that scammers are using new technology, making the call appear to come from a legitimate phone number or sending a text that appears in a genuine conversation thread.

“We are incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams because they can be so convincing, they are very hard to detect,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“What’s equally worrying about this particular scam is that it is emptying every last cent out of victims’ savings accounts, with losses averaging $22,000 and more than 90 reports of losses between $40,000 and $800,000. This causes both financial and emotional devastation.

“We know of a man who lost over $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.

“In another case, a man lost $38,000 after receiving a scam text message about a suspicious transaction. The scam text appeared in the same conversation thread as legitimate messages from his bank. He called the number in the text and was put through to a member of the bank’s fraud team. Unfortunately, it was an elaborate scam and he lost everything,” Lowe said.

Bank impersonation scams impersonate the big four banks as well as other financial institutions and communications often have a sense of urgency to them, such as fraudulent activity raising red flags or a frozen account.

The ACCC acknowledges that recent high-profile data breaches are having an impact on consumer behaviour and encourages caution.

“Following recent mass data breaches, many Australians were encouraged to monitor their accounts for suspicious activity. Sadly, this has led to consumers acting on these scam calls and text messages out of fear that their accounts have been compromised,” Lowe said.

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