Australians beware: scammers take advantage of disasters
7 March 2022
Westpac is urging Australians to be extra careful amid new concerns the unfolding floods disaster in Queensland and New South Wales could lead to a spike in scams.
Westpac’s General Manager of Fraud Prevention and Financial Crime, Chris Whittingham, has warned individuals and businesses that scammers often exploit disastrous events to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
“Time and time again, following a significant event or natural disaster, we see an increase in people being duped by scams, for example, after the devastating 2020 bushfires.
“This is a tactic fraudsters have continued to adopt throughout the pandemic where scams have almost tripled, exploiting the hearts and wallets of those experiencing hardship, or who have sought out items in high demand, like Rapid Antigen Tests.
“With the current floods crisis, scammers will try to take advantage of Australians’ generosity and support by setting up fake donation sites, or even posing as insurers, businesses or government organisations offering help to the victims themselves.
“We are urging people to be on high alert to the possibility of scams and closely check that any websites or charitable organisations are legitimate before sending funds or your personal information,” said Mr Whittingham.
Westpac has launched a $2 million fund to help small businesses impacted by the floods in Queensland and New South Wales access financial help.
Eligible small business customers can apply for $3,000 in cash grants per customer group to help with urgent expenses or repairs by contacting their banker or calling our customer support teams.
More information about flood support options for impacted customers is available here.
Details on the latest scams and how to avoid them can be found at westpac.com.au/scams.
Scammers are exploiting the current floods disaster through:
- Fake donation websites. Scammers purport to be raising money for those impacted through fake fundraisers or donation sites.
- Email or phone scams. Scammers pretend to be a familiar business or government organisation to trick victims into sending their money or personal information.
How to remain protected:
- Be wary of unexpected calls or emails. Be cautious of anyone claiming to be from a reputable organisation and stop to consider what they are asking for. If in doubt, ask for a reference number and call back on a number publicly listed to confirm the call was genuine.
- Use PayID. Business customers can register their ABN as their payee details in Westpac’s online or mobile banking, providing peace of mind that money is being sent to a legitimate business account.
- Use caution actioning email requests. Never click on links sent in emails that ask you to make a payment, provide personal information, or prompt you to log in to your bank account.
- Act immediately. If you think you might have been scammed, stop all communication with the scammer and contact your bank immediately. The sooner your bank is notified, the better chance at recovering any lost funds.
- Easy English Guides. Are also available via the Westpac website, providing more information on important topics like scams using simple words, sentences and images.