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Westpac warns of disturbing tactics fooling flood victims

A man carries a child through floodwaters. People are warned to be on the lookout for flood scams.
Scammers target the most vulnerable during disaster events. (Source: Getty) (Peter Wallis via Getty Images)

Westpac has warned people to be careful of scammers preying on victims of the devastating floods in NSW and Queensland.

Westpac’s general manager of fraud prevention and financial crime, Chris Whittingham, said scammers took advantage of vulnerable people during times of volatility, such as the COVID pandemic and the 2020 bushfires.

“This is a tactic fraudsters have continued to adopt throughout the pandemic where scams have almost tripled, exploiting the hearts and wallets of those experiencing hardship, or who have sought out items in high demand, like Rapid Antigen Tests,” Whittingham said.


He said to watch out for fake donation sites, as well as scammers posing as insurers, businesses or government organisations offering help to disaster victims.

“We are urging people to be on high alert to the possibility of scams and closely check that any websites or charitable organisations are legitimate before sending funds or your personal information,” Whittingham said.

Online donations for Ukranians have also been targeted by scammers. People have been caught out by phone calls, emails, banner ads and text messages asking for donations that seem legitimate.

How to avoid getting scammed

Whittingham has some tips for avoiding scams:

  • Don’t trust unexpected calls or emails: If there’s someone claiming to be from a reputable organisation, stop to consider what they are asking for

  • Use PayID: This is a more secure way of making transactions

  • Ignore suspicious email links: Whatever you do, don’t click on links in emails that ask you to make a payment

  • Act fast: Don’t put off a call to your bank if you think you’ve been scammed - immediate action gives banks the best chance to catch scammers

2021 a record year for scams

Last year was a record year for scams, with Australians swindled out of $323 million. That was an increase of 84 per cent on the previous year.

People aged 65 or over were the worst hit, with almost a quarter of those losses ($81 million) felt by this age group, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.

Investment scams are consistently the most financially damaging type of scam, followed by dating and romance scams.

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