Westpac warns: Don't fall for a scammer this Valentine's Day
10 February 2023
A growing number of Australians are being tricked into sending money to fake admirers, according to Westpac’s latest scam report.
Released today, the report uncovered the cost of romance scams increased 26 per cent in 2022 and have quadrupled since 2020.
Westpac Head of Fraud, Ben Young, says fraudsters are adopting a new hybrid romance and investment scam approach, driving the spike in losses.
“Scammers are using a new technique called ‘romance baiting’ to meet victims through online dating apps to develop a relationship before luring them into a fake investment opportunity,” said Mr Young.
“These scams are challenging because they will groom victims over a number of weeks or months to obtain information and build trust. As people become emotionally invested, the warning signs become more difficult to detect.
“Fake investments are appealing to scammers because they attract big figure returns. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in-person or spoken to via video call and always seek professional advice before making any investment decisions.”
Mr Young also said there had been a 300 per cent increase in threat and penalty scams. This includes scammers tricking victims into sending compromising images so they can extort victims for money.
“It’s incredibly alarming to see such a significant increase in these types of scams, with our data indicating males aged between 18 and 30 years old are most affected representing almost half of all reported cases,” said Mr Young.
“It can be a good idea to talk about any new online relationship with a trusted friend or family member. Discussing things out loud can often help uncover any red flags."
Scam losses peak in December
Westpac’s data found customer scam losses reached a new all-time high over the festive season, doubling from the year prior. This was mostly driven by remote access scams (20%), investment scams (12%) and buying and selling scams (10%).
“Periods of peak spending are always an attractive time for scammers, especially at the end of the year where people are shopping online more,” Mr Young added.
“Remote access scams have continued to be a challenge and recently exacerbated by a spike in impersonation scams, with fraudsters posing as known businesses to trick people into sharing access to their devices.
“If something doesn’t feel right or you think you might’ve been scammed, stop all contact with the scammer and call your bank immediately. The sooner you get in touch the better placed we are to help."
Keep yourself protected
- Westpac will never ask you to provide SMS authentication codes for payments, or to transfer money to another bank account to ‘keep it safe’.
- Never click on links in email or SMS asking you to sign into your banking. Always log-in safely through the app or via Westpac’s online banking.
- Always call us on a number sourced from our website, the Westpac App or from the back of your card. If you receive an unexpected call, hang up and call back on a trusted number.
- Never provide your banking information or passwords to someone over the phone, even if they claim to work for Westpac. We will never ask you to do this.
- Use PayID when making payments instead of a BSB and account number to ensure funds are being sent to a legitimate account.
- Consider running a reverse image search if you meet someone new online to see if they might be using false photos.
More information about the latest scams and how to avoid them is available at westpac.com.au/scams. To report a scam or to seek assistance, customers can contact us on 132 032 or via the Westpac app.