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Threats and charms: how to avoid scammmers and their tricks

23 September 2021

As more Australians experience financial scams, the ABA has launched a new campaign to raise awareness on the increasing threat of scams, warning Australians to be on the lookout for scam phone calls, texts and emails.

FULL TRANSCRIPT: ABA CEO Anna Bligh spoke with ABC Radio’s Ross Marsden.

Ross Marsden  The Australian Banking Association has launched a new campaign to raise awareness on the increasing threat of financial scams. Anna Bligh as Chief Executive Officer of the ABA, welcome.

Anna Bligh  Good afternoon. How are you Ross?

Ross Marsden  I’m well, thanks, Anna. Thank you for joining the drive program this afternoon.

Anna Bligh  Pleasure!

Ross Marsden  Now, more Australians are experiencing financial scams, Anna what should we be looking out for?

Anna Bligh While you are right, unfortunately, this sort of activity is on the rise. And I’m sure many, many of your listeners can give their own stories of things that have happened to either them, their friends or their family. You know, last year, we saw $851 million lost to scams.

Ross Marsden  Oh, my goodness.

Anna Bligh  In the same year, we saw a 145% increase in the complaints made to the Scamwatch complaint line. That’s an enormous increase in one year. I think some of that is about how much how many more of us, right across the country have become much more adept at shopping online, banking online, and be part of the digital world as a result of COVID.

You know, we all had to do things differently. And a lot of people have continued to do those things. So it means that scammers are always looking out for ways to get people’s money. As that grows, you know, banks have got an obligation to do everything they can to protect customers and put in place all the cyber security that is currently available with all the best technology.

But I think it’s also important that as customers, we do our best wherever we can to protect ourselves and to protect your finances.

Ross Marsden I want to know the tips and tricks that scammers are doing in a moment. But just going back to that $851 million lost I’m presuming that money is being lost to overseas countries.

Anna Bligh Not all of it, you are right that some of the very sophisticated scans being done on a global scale by very well organized criminal networks operating out of countries, far from Australia. But there are people here in Australia who are also out to exploit their fellow Australians if they can. But you know, particularly when the money does go offshore, it’s very difficult for banks to retrieve it.

I don’t know about you, Ross, but it’s probably once a fortnight or so I get an unknown number start ringing my phone. And it’ll be somewhere like Belarus or Slovenia, or, you know, a country where I know nobody, and I don’t answer those calls. But if I’m getting those calls then 1000s and 1000s of other Australians are, and it’s people just randomly dialing numbers, you know, using quite sophisticated technology, hoping to catch someone.

Ross Marsden Yes, I had a call from Russia the other day, and I just thought I’ll let that go through to the keeper, that one. And that’s what, what are some of these, these tricks, these sophisticated things that scammers do that make people feel that at ease that they’re not being scammed and they end up falling for it? What are they doing? Talk us through what they’re doing so that we can get a better understanding of what we need to look out for, the red flags?

Anna Bligh  Well, there’s probably two different approaches, and sometimes they combine them, firstly, is that they can be very persuasive. They sound like they’re ringing from a professional call centre. They might even falsely use the name of a company like your internet company, or a delivery company, they might do that on your phone, you might see the logo of a company that you recognize come up.

“It is happening to young people to old people, the people in remote areas of Australia, to people in cities, scammers will just keep trying to get in to any account that they can.”

ABA CEO Anna Bligh

And if they’re on the phone, they’re often very persuasive, that sound very professional and they start asking you for things like your bank account details, your PIN number, they want to do that they asked you that information on text and by email, or they can often be very threatening.

I think many people will have heard of a very common scam where someone sounds ring sounding very authoritative, saying “I’m ringing from the Australian Tax Office, you have an outstanding tax bill. If you do not pay it into your tax account, this matter will be handed to the police”.

That’s a very frightening thing for a lot of people to hear. And particularly if you think oh maybe I did get behind in something. Threatening to arrest people or hand things matters to the police as a way of intimidating people and frightening them into giving over the details and pushing them really pushing them very hard to do so.

It’s a combination of charm and threats. Particularly the charming one, you know, the people who sound very professional who’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make it sound like this could be your bank, this could be your internet service, this could be a company you’ve dealt with – they’re often very hard to pick.

But – if they’re asking you for things like your PIN number, or the security code on your card, it is highly unlikely that it is your bank, or your internet provider. Banks do not ask you for those things over the phone.

Ross Marsden  Yes. Now, the banks, I think, have had campaigns over recent years, trying to inform their customers of things that they would never ask you, for.

Anna Bligh  That’s right. And that’s what this campaign is really trying to do. Just some very simple facts that might help people. Basically, banks will never ask for your account, or your personal details by text or by email. And they will never threaten to cancel, cancel your account, or arrest you if you don’t pay immediately. These are examples of things that people have been told by scammers. So if something doesn’t feel right, if somebody says they’re from your bank, and they’re going to cancel your account, or make some other threat, they’re a scammer. You need to hang up and contact your bank as quickly as you can.

And if you have made a payment, if somebody has convinced you to make a payment for a product or a service that perhaps didn’t sound right to you, you should contact your bank as quickly as you can – there’s some chance that they can stop the payment and retrieve it for you.

“…if they’re asking you for things like your PIN number, or the security code on your card, it is highly unlikely that it is your bank… banks do not ask you for those things over the phone.”

Ross Marsden  Yes, I had a family member have someone on the phone so convincing that they installed a particular piece of software onto their computer, which of course was a portal then for the scammer to gain as much information from the computer as they can. Thankfully, they twigged and quickly reversed all of that. Unfortunately, they had to cancel all credit cards and so forth. And it is quite an inconvenience, but of course, not as inconvenient as losing your life savings.

Anna, before I let you go, the scammers are they targeting one particular group over another?

Anna Bligh  No, that we don’t see any evidence of that. What we, and I think a lot of people who have been scammed, often feel very embarrassed about, and ashamed, that they might have fallen for some kind of trick – what I would say to your listeners is, you know, there is no shame if you are a victim of a crime.

It is happening to young people, to old people, the people in remote areas of Australia, to people in cities, scammers will just keep trying to get in to any account that they can. So again, I would just say if something sounds too good to be true, or just doesn’t feel right to you, exercise your right to hang up. You do not have to keep listening –  and contact your bank as soon as you possibly can.

Ross Marsden  That is great advice. Anna Bligh, Chief Executive Officer for the Australian Banking Association.

Thank you for giving us the insight into financial scams at the moment and I don’t know about you, but the constant bombardment of text messages and phone calls is doing my head in that’s for sure.

Access more resources and get data on the most ‘effective’ scams and how to avoid them.

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