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NAB banker saves ‘desperate’ couple from ‘elaborate’ $40k scam

Erin Bugg had a gut feeling the husband and wife were about to make a huge mistake.

A couple has been saved from losing $40,000 to a scam after “alarm bells” rang for an NAB banker.

The anonymous man and woman noticed their bank account had been blocked while they were trying to transfer the huge sum of money to an online investment firm in Perth. They thought it was an opportunity to increase their wealth amid the cost-of-living crisis because the firm seemed very legitimate.

It had its own website, and news articles had been done about it. However, NAB’s Erin Bugg noticed something wasn’t quite right with the investment rates that were being advertised.

“If there was a scam red flags bingo card, ‘online investment opportunity’ would be top of the list,” Bugg said. “Immediately, alarm bells went off for me. It sounded like an investment scam and I was concerned this couple could lose their life savings.”

Have you been caught by an elaborate scam? Email me at stew.perrie@yahooinc.com.

NAB's Erin Bugg at work
NAB's Erin Bugg managed to talk the husband and wife out of transferring tens of thousands of dollars. (Source: NAB)

She got NAB’s fraud team to have a look into the company while the couple insisted to her that they trusted the firm. All they wanted from Bugg was to unblock their account so they could crack on with what they thought was a huge opportunity.

“No one likes to be told they’re being lied to, especially when they feel like they’ve done all the right things,” Bugg said. “They had done their own research, and even spoken to the company on the phone.

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“Then, the wife mentioned the man that keeps ringing her to thank her for the investment and prompting her to open the account. This sounded more alarm bells for me, and I continued to try to explain why this is likely a scam.”

The couple, meanwhile, had even called the firm and put them on loudspeaker to talk to Bugg in a bid to expedite the situation.

“I was becoming very overwhelmed by the situation unfolding in front of me,” she recalled.

“I declined to speak to the ‘firm’, but I could hear them telling the customers, “Oh, NAB always flags us as a scam’. The fraud team agreed with me that this was exactly that – an elaborate scam.”

The fraud team noticed this ‘firm’ had a bank account with another bank and the couple was advised by NAB to contact that bank to see if everything was above board. They did just that and it wasn’t long before they were also told to avoid this ‘firm’ if they didn’t want to lose tens of thousands of dollars.

Bugg said she was “relieved” to hear the husband and wife listened to the advice and backed out.

She explained to A Current Affair that scammers were getting better at fooling people.

"It is really scary," she said. "They're getting really cunning, they're getting really smart. They're really believable and the scams come in all different shapes and sizes now so it's really hard to understand what is a scam sometimes and it happens to anyone - you could be old or younger. It doesn't matter."

How do I protect myself from scammers?

Aussies lost a record $3.1 billion to scammers last year, an 80 per cent increase on the previous year.

Scamwatch warns to beware of the following scenarios:

  • It’s an amazing opportunity to make or save money

  • Someone you haven’t met needs your help - and money

  • The message contains links or attachments

  • You feel pressured to act quickly

  • They ask you to pay in an unusual or specific way

  • They ask you to set up new accounts or Pay ID

What should I do if I think I’ve been scammed?

Contact your bank and report the scam. Ask them to stop transactions and stop sending any money.

Report the scam to Scamwatch here and make an official complaint to police here.

Watch out for follow up scams, particularly ones promising they can get your money back. Scamwatch warned one in three victims of a scam are scammed more than once.

Lastly, get support for yourself. You can talk to a financial counsellor or reach out to BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or here for an online chat or Lifeline for crisis support online here on 13 11 14.

You can also contact IDCARE to “reduce the harm they experience from the compromise and misuse of their identity information by providing effective response and mitigation”.

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