ACCC’s Scamwatch detail bank impersonation scams are using new technology to trick everyday Aussies, making calls appear to come from a bank’s legitimate phone number or sending texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine bank messages. 

In the last year alone, Scamwatch received 14,603 reports of bank impersonation scams accounting for more than $20 million in losses. 

ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe noted the ACCC is incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams given they can be so convincing and very hard to detect.

“What’s equally worrying about this particular scam, is that it is emptying every last cent out of victims’ savings accounts, with losses averaging $22,000 and more than 90 reports of losses between $40,000 and $800,000,” Ms Lowe said. 

Ms Lowe said one particular case brought to the attention of the ACCC saw one man lose over $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.

“In another case, a man lost $38,000 after receiving a scam text message about a suspicious transaction. The scam text appeared in the same conversation thread as legitimate messages from his bank. He called the number in the text and was put through to a member of the banks’ fraud team. Unfortunately, it was an elaborate scam and he lost everything,” she said. 

For all Australians, Ms Lowe noted no matter how legitimate the call or message seems, a bank won’t ask you to urgently transfer funds.

“Following recent mass data breaches, many Australians were encouraged to monitor their accounts for suspicious activity.

“If you receive an SMS with a telephone number to call, do not use it. Instead, call your bank direct on a number you have sourced yourself. Likewise, hang up if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank requesting you to transfer money to ‘keep it safe’. Ask for a reference number and call your bank back using contact details you have found independently.”

CommBank and Telstra launch ‘Scam Indicator’ to protect customers

Australia’s largest bank and telco have teamed up to help protect Aussies from scams, launching a pilot of their Scam Indicator.

The indicator aims to help protect joint CommBank and Telstra customers from phone scams where criminals try to trick these customers into transferring large amounts of money.

CommBank details the indicator is designed to detect certain high-risk scam situations in real time using a Telstra API that CommBank will call on as part of its scam detection processes. 

This will enable CommBank to check if a customer is on a phone call – the prime indicator that a scam is occurring - allowing the bank the opportunity to try to contact the customer or put in additional checks. 

For reference, an API (Application Programming Interface) enables third parties to retrieve information and data from account holders and share this data with other Accredited Data Recipients.

To protect the privacy of both parties, CommBank will only be able to access specific data points relating to scam prevention, meaning the bank does not have access to any other underlying customer data.


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