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More young Australians being exploited online

4 September 2023

Westpac is urging young Australians to take care following a significant spike in scammers targeting underage victims online.

The bank has released new data this National Child Protection Week revealing the number of reported scams from customers under 18yrs have almost quadrupled since last year, and have more than doubled for those under 30.

This includes a significant increase in Threat & Penalty scams, with customers under 30 accounting for half (49%) of all reported cases where four in five (79%) are young males.

Westpac General Manager of Financial Crime & Fraud Prevention, Chris Whittingham, says the data is concerning and reveals a growing trend called ‘sextortion’ targeting young Aussies.

“It’s really alarming to see such a big spike in the number of scammers tricking young people into sending compromising information online. Scammers will then use this information to extort money from the victim, often requesting a number of small payments over a period of time.

“Scammers prey on the fact young people spend lots of time on social media platforms and create fake accounts to pose as teenagers themselves. They often build trust over time, allowing them to gather more information about their victim or gain access to personal content.

“It’s really important to be conscious about how much information you share on social media and other websites. Scammers can use anything you post to piece information together about you – like what school or university you attend, sports you play, or suburb you live in – which they then use to form a connection with you or even impersonate you.

“Always stop and think before you post, be very cautious of anyone you’ve never seen in-person or spoken to on video chat before, and never give away details like your address or date of birth,” Mr Whittingham said.

According to Westpac’s data, young Australians are also most likely to fall victim to Buying & Selling scams.

“Buying and selling scams often occur through fake websites or online marketplaces. Scammers entice victims with competitive prices for high demand items like concert tickets or designer clothes,” Mr Whittingham added.

“You should always conduct an independent search through your web browser to confirm if a business is legitimate before making a payment, especially if it’s a brand you’ve never bought anything from before. Also be wary if they request payment through unusual methods like cryptocurrency.

“Westpac customers can use their Digital Card when shopping online for added safety. This is available in the Westpac app and has a 3-digit security code that changes every day to stop fraudsters from stealing your card details.”

Running from 3 – 9 September 2023, National Child Protection Week aims to address the significant harms being experienced by children in Australia.

Westpac is encouraging parents and guardians to talk to their kids about staying safe online and consider taking advantage of tools like Westpac’s Parental and Youth Controls available in the bank’s app. This includes the ability to apply and manage payment restrictions on your child’s account, as well as turn on notifications for visibility over any account activity.

More information about safe banking is available via the Westpac website.



  1. Buying & Selling scams. Items are advertised at competitive prices through fake websites or online marketplaces.
  2. Threat & Penalty scams. Scammers threaten you with harm (physical or emotional), arrest, legal action or other demands in an attempt to force you into handing over money or your personal information.
  3. Impersonation scams. Scammers will impersonate known businesses to trick you into sharing personal information or send money to another account. Contact is often unsolicited and will appear urgent in nature. They may also use spoofing software to impersonate a known phone number. Always hang up and call back on a trusted number.
  4. Job scams. Scammers impersonate recruitment firms or contact victims with fake job offers that require an upfront payment.
  5. Investment scams. Scammers impersonate a well-known business or government organisation to trick you into sending money or personal information, such as energy or telco providers. These can also be fake cryptocurrency offers.



  • Be cautious of anyone new you meet online. Never accept random friend requests or messages from people you don’t know, and never share personal information with someone you haven’t met in person or spoken with on video chat before.
  • Think about how much personal information you’re sharing online through social media or other apps and platforms. Scammers can use this information to trick you or impersonate you.
  • Regularly check your privacy and security settings, including updating your passwords. Never share any login details or passwords with anyone.
  • If an offer appears too good to be true, then it probably is. Always check if a business is legitimate before making a payment and talk about special deals or offers with friends and family before sending money to someone.
  • Take advantage of secure banking features like PayID, which links a bank account with an authorised ABN, email, or mobile number so you can be sure money is going to a legitimate account. Westpac customers can also use a Digital Card when shopping online which reduces fraud by 80 per cent.
  • Parents and guardians should consider taking advantage of parental control tools and features, enabling you to place restrictions or have more visibility over online activity.
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