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.