16 December 2022
BILL MCDONALD: You may remember I spoke to Blake Talbot yesterday. Now, he got in touch with the show after falling victim to one of the most elaborate and sophisticated scams I think I may have ever heard of. Now, Blake and his pregnant wife have lost their entire life savings of over $26,000.
As Blake explained to me yesterday, he received a missed call from an unrecognised number. When he Googled it, it was Suncorp. Then he got a text message from Suncorp; the same number they’d used to contact him before saying someone from fraud would be in touch about suspicious activity. They also told him to quote a
security number to verify it was Suncorp on the phone.
Now, when Blake got in touch with them, they began going through unauthorised transactions that they were blocking and told him there was a direct debit for $4,000 coming out, which was obviously news to Blake. They told him someone had compromised his Apple Wallet, and he needed to set up a new account and transfer money as his whole banking system was compromised. They had all his account details, addresses and
unauthorised transaction details.
So as you can imagine, it seemed extremely legitimate. He transferred the entirety of his account, and as soon
as it was done, the phone went dead, and he wasn’t able to call back. Now, I did read a statement from Suncorp yesterday, and they confirmed their fraud and investigations team are
trying to recover the money, but often with these things, the money gets sent offshore straight away, so it’s sometimes not traceable.
After hearing Blake’s story, and knowing how many people fall victim to scams, we had a lot of calls and texts yesterday, I wanted to find out what we can do to prevent falling victim to them. Anna Bligh is the CEO of the Australian Banking Association, and I’m pleased to say she joins me now. Good morning, Anna.
ANNA BLIGH: Good morning, how are you?
BILL MCDONALD: I’m well, thank you. Nice to talk with you again. This isn’t exclusively a Suncorp issue, is it? These kinds of scams are hitting businesses and their customers right around the country. What do people do to prevent being targeted by them?
ANNA BLIGH: Well, you’re absolutely right, Bill. These scams are hitting people in every part of Australia, it doesn’t matter who they bank with, or which telephone company they use, these are incredibly sophisticated operations. I think we sometimes think of scammers as sort of amateurs sitting round in their garage trying to, you know, make a hit on someone. Actually, they’re very sophisticated, organised crime gangs, often operating in other countries. They have whole call centres of people whose job every day is to try to find a chink in your armour.
But there are things that we can all do. First of all, what scammers do is they try to take advantage of either a fear that you have, or take advantage of the fact that you’re busy, and you’ll do things quickly. So in many cases they will threaten, they’ll make you feel worried and fearful. They’ll say that you’ve got a Tax Office bill, that if you don’t pay for it, the police will be coming, and they’ll say that, you know, “There’s money being taken out of your account, you’ve got to do something immediately to stop it.” They’ll play on the fact that they think you’re busy and this time of year leading into Christmas is prime time. They’ll send you a text message with something that’s worrying. There’s one going around at the moment where they’re impersonating someone’s children, so it’ll be, “Mum, I need money, I’m stuck somewhere,” Mum presses the link, and as soon as they do that, details are going to the scammer.
So the first thing we can do is just always take a minute, and not let anyone on the phone push you into doing something too fast, and not let them take advantage of the fact that you’re busy. But it’s important to know that, firstly, a bank will never ask for any account or personal details via text or by email. So if you get something on your text messages that asks for anything like that, very likely to be a scam. Banks will never ask you to transfer money over the phone from one ‑ close an account and move all the money. If someone is asking you to do something like that, then it is likely to be a scammer. And then all the things that we know. Of course when we’re busy or frightened, we’ll often forget, or they’ll take advantage of it. Don’t give your PIN number to somebody, don’t give your PIN number over the phone, don’t let people push you into something that you’ve just got a bad feeling about. Take the time to step back from whatever it is they’re claiming.
BILL MCDONALD: Is in most cases it sounds like if you’re getting contacted over the phone like that, you’re better off just hanging up, and if you’ve got some concerns, maybe ring back, or ring back your lender or your bank?
ANNA BLIGH: Exactly. You know, we do know there are scams happening in a number of ‑ or they have over this year ‑ in a number of banks where people are impersonating bank officers. It is important to understand that banks will not ring and tell you that you’re at risk of ‑ that they’ll call the police, or any of the sorts of threats that I’ve heard people experiencing in some of these scams.
One thing I would let your listeners know about is that most banks now offer a service called PayID. What this does is allow you to pay directly to somebody’s phone number. This is a very good mechanism that will press you, but one of the big scams that are going around, and obviously if you’ve got any tradies listening to you, they’ll know about it, where you might, for example, have some work done on your house, you get an invoice that looked like it’s from the person who did the work, you pay it, and you know, 30 days later, the tradie rings you up and says, “Bill, you haven’t paid my bill.” What’s happened is a scammer has got in between you and the person who did the work, they’ve doctored the invoice, you’ve genuinely thought you’ve paid it, but the money never went to the right person. PayID is something that will avoid that kind of scam, and so if you’re not on PayID, ask your bank how you can get on it, because that’s one way.
There’s a million different kinds of scams out there, but that particular one, we can do something about as customers, by paying those sorts of invoices, either directly in cash to the person in front of you, or by using PayID to pay those bills.
BILL MCDONALD: That’s a good bit of advice, particularly for older people listening that may be not up to speed with all the tech and what they get mentioned to them by some of these scammers.
What’s your view on Blake’s situation, Anna? Is there anything he can do to try and get his money back?
ANNA BLIGH: Well, I did listen to Blake’s call in to you yesterday, and I have to say I’m sure everybody listening, you know, you just feel terrible when you hear those sorts of experiences, and you know, I can understand why he and his family are very distressed.
But Blake did indicate that he had lodged a complaint with the body called AFCA, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, and what Blake just needs to do now is let that take its course. They take complaints of this nature literally every single day. They have very experienced complaints officers who will look at all the circumstances, from the bank and from Blake’s point of view, and then they have the power to order an outcome, and the bank will oblige by whatever the outcome that they determined.
So he’s done the right thing, if he believes that he’s entitled to some recovery of his losses, and that’s exactly the right body that will make the determination and look at all of the circumstances.
So, you know, as we come into Christmas, I can only repeat to all of your listeners, scammers will take advantage of the fact that we’re all going to be pretty busy in the next week or 10 days, we will let our guards down, maybe, over Christmas and New Year when we’re relaxing at the beach, don’t let a scammer ruin your Christmas. Think before you press the button, hang up if you’ve got a bad feel, because you’re probably right.
There are ‑ one of the major banks at its AGM recently indicated that their system are repelling 50 million scams from their customers’ accounts every single month. So that’s the size of this problem. And they only need to find one little chink in the armour though, and you know, all too often we fall victim to these things, because they are so sophisticated, they are so well‑organised, and they are criminals.
BILL MCDONALD: Yeah, it’s frightening. I’m talking Anna Bligh, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association. Just quickly, what are the banks trying to do to further prevent these scams to protect customers?
ANNA BLIGH: Well, every bank is investing literally millions and millions and millions of dollars into their cyber security. Once upon a time banks spent a lot of money on great big iron vaults where they could lock the door and keep your physical money safe. These days, we don’t have those kind of vaults keeping our money safe, we have very, very sophisticated cyber security systems that are protecting our finances.
So every single day, banks, interestingly, many banks now are employing more ‑ they’re employing more software engineers, they’re employing more coders, and IT professionals than they are frontline tellers, because that’s where they need to be investing their money, and that’s where we need them to be putting their dollars. One of the other things I think it’s really important for people to know is that when something happens, when a bank sees a scam that’s affecting their customers, they do have a very good system of letting each other know, so that if something happens at one bank, every other bank certainly can find out very quickly. So they share that information. Nobody thinks there’s any competitive advantage in any of this. If one bank’s being scammed, they know very quickly it’s going to come down the road to them. So there’s a lot of information exchanged.
There’s also a lot of recovery work, so that if money is transferred out of your account to some other bank, they can ring that bank and get it frozen while they deal with the situation.
But as you said in your introduction, if it’s sent offshore or it’s sent to a Crypto Exchange, you know, somewhere in Eastern Europe, it’s almost impossible to get it back.
BILL MCDONALD: All right. Well, it’s some good advice you’ve given us there, and I appreciate your time. Thanks very much. Have a nice Christmas.
ANNA BLIGH: Yeah, thank you.
BILL MCDONALD: Anna Bligh, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association
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