Scammers are some of the most opportunistic criminals and they have no moral compass. They pose as the Australian Taxation Office during tax season, charities after a disaster and health departments during a pandemic.
“Scammers are getting so sophisticated they’ll even copy the manner in which we contact our customers. They’ll read our policy statement and use our hold music. They know exactly how to speak to their victims.”
Recently I spoke to ABC Radio’s The Conversation Hour about the rise of scam activity and how they are becoming more sophisticated and more difficult to track and trace. This is a cross-industry issue, involving not only banks but telcos, social media platforms, governments and regulators.
The most recent ACCC Scamwatch data show Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams last year and that figure is on track to almost double in 2022. About 55 per cent of this is made up of investment scams – 9,600 reports at a cost of $177 million.
The main driver of this increase was cryptocurrency investment scams which saw losses jump by 27 per cent to $99 million in 2021. In the last 12 months ANZ recovered or prevented an estimated $80 million in scams targeted at customers and took down hundreds of phishing websites each month.
While the value of scam losses breaks records year after year, it’s important to remember it’s not the only troubling factor at play. The true cost of scams can cause emotional and sometimes physical harm to people, even long after the event is over.
At ANZ, our teams spend countless hours each week trying to get ahead of the constantly changing scam environment, scanning the dark web for phishing or fake websites or tracing the most recent text bot. We work around the clock to anticipate the constantly changing tricks and trends.
Scammers are getting so sophisticated they’ll even copy the manner in which we contact our customers. They’ll read our policy statement and use our hold music. They know exactly how to speak to their victims.
They also often coach their victims on what to say to the bank. Even if we detect a suspicious transaction and call the victim, they have been told what to say by the scammers.
It makes it incredibly hard for our team to read between the lines and those conversations with customers are very challenging.
While Nigerian Princes’ inheritances and fake lottery scams used to dominate, today scammers target victims in real-time using publicly available online data. They also tap into current trends like cryptocurrency or non-existent investment opportunities.
ANZ has invested millions of dollars over the last three years in new technologies to detect scams, particularly those with behavioural profiling capabilities.
We’ve invested in a behavioural biometrics solution which helps us determine if we’re interacting with our customer or a scammer. It’s an important development because traditional fraud controls are not entirely fit for purpose anymore.
The most common scams by loss, as reported by the ACCC’s Scamwatch are:
Investment scams: $701 million
This encompasses cryptocurrency, bonds, superannuation and sports betting scams. Scammers hook victims with the allure of getting rich quick, promising big payouts and guaranteed returns.
Cryptocurrency investment scams saw the biggest jump with Scamwatch receiving 4,730 reports. Many victims caught have little knowledge of the market and engaged with scammers via Google searches or fake social media ads. They input their details into websites and receive calls from scammers posing as cryptocurrency brokers.
Shaq’s advice: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Call your bank if you’re unsure.
Dating and romance scams: $142 million
These target people looking for love or companionship. This type of scam is not new but scammers are constantly finding new and inventive ways to use emotional triggers to gain the trust of victims to obtain money, gifts or personal data.
They usually take place through dating websites but scammers can also use email or phones to ‘catfish’ their victims. The $142 million lost in 2021 was up from $131 million in 2020, according to the ACCC.
Shaq’s advice: Be careful when sharing personal information online and never send money to someone whom you have not met in person.
Payment redirection scams: $227 million
Payment redirection also includes Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams which caused the highest losses to businesses in 2021.
This happens when a hacker either gains access to a business’s email accounts or spoofs a business email or phone number.
The hacker sends emails or text messages to customers claiming a business address or banking details have changed. They use legitimate-looking emails to urge victims to click on a link to rectify their account.
In other instances, hackers have intercepted house deposits and redirected large sums of money offshore or into crypto wallets.
Shaq’s advice: By the time victims recognise they've been scammed it's often too late. It depends on when the money gets transferred and where it goes. If it goes to a crypto wallet, it becomes incredibly difficult to trace and recover.
Phishing scams: $4.5 million
Phishing messages appear to come from your financial institution and ask consumers to provide card or internet banking details. The criminals then use this information to facilitate payments or purchases from customer accounts.
Scammers also ask customers for copies of identity documents which can be used to commit identity theft.
Phishing scammers may send a text message to flag suspicious activity and urge customers to authorise or cancel payments through a link. They will ask customers to confirm card details so the bank can investigate.
Shaq’s advice: Listen carefully to what you’ve been asked to do. Banks will never ask you to move your funds. They will never open an account on your behalf or ask you to transfer funds to that account. If we think your account has been compromised, we've got measures to protect customers.