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SCAM SPOT: Beware bank impersonators

09:30am February 03 2023

The fifth episode of Westpac Wire's Scam Spot Series delves into the growing number of bank impersonation scams, and how to avoid falling into the trap. (Thomas Evans)

With a growing number of scammers impersonating large financial institutions, it’s important to consider whether the voice on the other end of the phone is there to help you, or scam you.

In a world where personal information is getting less and less personal, it can seem quite normal to get a call from a seemingly trusted bank and have your personal details recited to you. But here’s where it can go wrong.

Scammers are targeting victims by impersonating banks, warning customers that their funds could be at risk and, in order to keep them safe, they need to transfer their money to a new account – often at a completely different bank.

‘Spoofing software’ may be used to make it appear as though the call is coming from a bank, or your phone might slide the message in line with previous genuine messages from the bank, making them appear legitimate.

In reality, the scammer’s goal is to obtain further information to make payments from your account.

Here are a few tips to avoid falling for this scam:

1. Beware when a bank unexpectedly contacts you. If you do receive a cold call: get the reference number, hang up, and call back on an independently sourced number. All credible organisations welcome this level of customer caution.

2. Don’t immediately respond if the ‘banker’ requests you urgently action something. If you are asked to complete an action while on the phone, there’s a high risk that it’s dodgy.

3. Banks do not require you to move money to keep it safe, and especially not to an account at a different bank.

4. Anyone sharing your personal information with you to gain your trust, or asking you to read out security codes or passwords, is likely scamming you. Hang up on them – the information has likely been fraudulently obtained.

If you are ever unlucky enough to experience fraud, banks may call and ask you to choose a new password or delete any viruses on your device. All other security steps will be undertaken by the bank, including securing your funds and sending you a new card.

It can be hard to know exactly who you are dealing with online or on the phone, so it’s worth taking a minute to call back and confirm – it could save you a world of trouble.

For more information about the latest scams, go to Westpac's Latest Scams & Alerts info.

Ben Young is Westpac’s Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Insights. Ben’s team researches and operates Westpac’s key fraud protection processes for the ~25 million transactions processed each day by the bank, particularly around credit cards, internet banking, branch and applications for credit. Ben has been intimately involved in Westpac’s fraud processes since 2007 and has worked in various data led risk processes since 1997.

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