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34% of Australians know someone who has lost $150k in a scam

by Sam Nichols7 minute read

The ABA has launched a new campaign highlighting the growing threat of scams, after finding that one in three Australians know someone who’s lost over $150,000. 

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has released a new digital and radio campaign to bring to light the tactics used by financial scammers over phone, text, and email, after banks had reported a “noticeable increase” in this activity since the start of the pandemic. 

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According to the ABA, the initiative was launched following a 1200-person survey commissioned via YouGov that reported 66 per cent of Australians fend off a scam attempt every week, with 29 per cent doing so daily.

Additionally, 37 per cent of Australians told the ABA that they had been scammed out of money themselves or know a family member or close friend who has. 

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More than a third (34 per cent) said that they knew someone who had lost more than $150,000. 

As such, the ABA’s campaign, which will run until the end of October, aims to help raise awareness of the types of behaviour used by scammers to obtain financial advantage.

It highlights that genuine authorities (such as a bank) would:

  • Never ask for any account or personal details by text or email
  • Never threaten to cancel an account or arrest a customer if they don’t pay immediately

“If someone does, stop and think,” the ABA advised. “Then just hang up or delete the message.”

Speaking of the new campaign, ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said that one negative side effect of the increased digital activity brought about due to COVID-19 was an increase in the amount and sophistication of scammer activity. 

“Scammers don’t target one group over another, they target all people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you are not expecting it,” Ms Bligh said.

“This campaign is about assisting Australians to help make them aware of scammer tactics, so they can protect themselves and their friends and family.

“Banks have made large investments and employed more people to help detect and disrupt scams in real time, 24 hours a day, and they’re working to protect you and your personal information.”

In addition to the campaign, the ABA stated that the banking sector is working on a wider project to understand how to “better share information with law enforcement”, and to ensure that both regulators and Australian Financial Complaints Authority are equipped to keep up with scam tactics as they evolve. 

“Banks are doing all they can to help protect Australians from scams that are coming from across the world. The industry is also working with all key stakeholders to ensure Australians are informed and protected in every way possible,” Ms Bligh concluded.

Increasing scam activity in the finance space

The initiative comes off the back of increasing reports of Australians losing money from scammer activity. 

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch, a record figure of over $851 million was lost to scams during 2020. 

Similarly, data published by Scamwatch states that from this year to September, there have been almost 200,000 reports of scams, accounting for a loss of $192 million. 

Cyber attacks have also been on the rise, with recent findings noticing that the financial sector is becoming increasingly targeted

Recent instances have also highlighted that the broking industry is not immune from this threat, with reports of attackers successfully impersonating brokers and borrowers to intercept payments.

One particular scam involves an attacker impersonating a broker over email, which led to the broker’s client depositing money into the criminal’s account rather than a settlement account. As a result, the client lost their funds.

Speaking last week ahead of the launch of the aggregator’s cyber-security training program, Connective’s group counsel Daniel Oh, stated: “Attacks like these can lead to many serious consequences, like theft of funds and exposure of private and confidential client identity and financial data.

“This is why brokers need to arm themselves with all the tools available to avoid a worst-case scenario.

“Brokers have been incredibly resilient and adaptable in recent times managing significant change.

“Whether it be increased compliance with best interests duty, accelerated digital transformation, or managing ongoing lockdowns, brokers have responded well – but we are seeing evidence that proactively managing cybersecurity risk has either dropped down the list of priorities, or is not even on the radar for some brokers amongst so much other change.”

One method of protection encouraged by the Australian Cyber Security Centre is for businesses to introduce a system that requires at least two proofs of identity in order to grant access, also known as multifactor authentication. 

[Related: Momentum launches new cyber-security podcast]

34% of Australians know someone who has lost $150k in a scam
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Sam Nichols

Sam Nichols

AUTHOR

Sam Nichols is a journalist at The Adviser and Mortgage Business. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including ABC News, SBS' The Feed, and VICE.

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