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Westpac initiative to bolster safety of customer payments

08:00am March 26 2024

Westpac is rolling out a new line of defence in the fight against scammers.

Westpac SaferPay will alert customers to potential scams through a series of questions presented in the banking app or in online banking for new payments that are detected to have a high scam risk. If customer responses suggest the payment is highly likely to be a scam, Westpac will not allow it to be processed.

“The system is the first of its kind in Australia. It will alert customers about potential scams before they’ve made a payment,” said Ben Young, Westpac’s Head of Fraud. 

Using artificial intelligence technology, questions will only be deployed on payments that are flagged up as potentially being scams. Responses to those questions are then plugged in to Westpac’s fraud detection system.

“The initial question is about the nature of the payment. For example, is it an investment? Are you buying something online? Are you giving money to a friend? Depending on the answer it will ask a series of follow up questions relating to the payment to assess whether it could be a common scam,” Young said. 

Australia’s banks joined forces last year in an industry-first Scam Safe Accord to enhance protection for customers against scams and there are already signs that collaborative efforts are helping to reduce losses.

Australians reported $82.1 million in losses to the ACCC’s Scamwatch in the three months to Dec. 31, 2023, a decline of 43 per cent on the same period a year earlier. 

“The Scam Safe Accord is a significant step forward to ensure Australians are afforded the same protections no matter who they choose to bank with,” said Westpac CEO Peter King, adding it was important that the same protections were applied across the entire scam ecosystem.

“We welcome the work underway by the Federal Government on a mandatory industry code that considers a whole-of-ecosystem approach to effectively tackle this problem.”

Westpac SaferPay will offer another layer of protection against the scam types that lots of people are falling for, such as investment scams and romance scams, Young said. 

It will work alongside other safety features including Westpac Verify, which alerts customers if there is a potential account name mismatch for payments to a new BSB and account number via the New Payments Platform (NPP). 

An enhanced Westpac Verify capability is due to be rolled-out later this year, providing customers with an indication of how confident the bank is that the name they have entered is connected with the BSB and account number.  

Westpac has saved customers over $400 million from being lost to scammers over the past two years and has invested more than $100 million in new detection and prevention measures.

“While all this technology helps, it’s really important that customers stay vigilant about scams,” Young said.

“Investment opportunities that seem too good to be true are always something to watch out for, particularly things you might find on social media. It’s not just investment opportunity websites but also comparison websites which pretend they are comparing investments between different platforms, there are a lot of scams in that space.” 

For information on the latest scams, go to Westpac's Latest Scams and Alerts info.

James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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