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Westpac releases real-life scam call to warn customers: ‘If in doubt, hang up’

Man's hand holding smartphone as notification a call from an unknown caller - [ossibly a scam - appears on screen
Westpac has released an audio recording of a real-life scam call to show customers what to look out for amid rising cases in the country. (Source: Getty)

Westpac has released an audio recording of a scammer pretending to be a member of the bank’s fraud team to demonstrate the red flags people need to be looking out for as scam calls in Australia spike.

“My name is Martin Moore, calling you from the Westpac fraud-prevention team,” a man with a British accent could be heard saying at the start of the call.

The scammer proceeded to ask the woman at the other end of the line a number of questions while giving a false assurance of the call’s authenticity through ‘verification’.

He then continued, informing her that someone had attempted to use her credit card details for a transaction in Mexico, and that he was now going to cancel her card to prevent the transaction from going through.

“We’re going to have to cancel this card for you today and send you a new card to the address,” the man said, before proceeding to confirm her address.

“OK, so we’re going to cancel your card and send a brand-new card straight away. That will take three to five working days to arrive.

“We’re also going to cancel this transaction for you today, madam. So, I can confirm that we’re calling from the fraud-prevention team and no payments have actually left your account today,” he reiterated.

The man also asked the woman to read out a "cancellation code" that was sent to her mobile phone.

Number of scam calls on the rise

Although Westpac managed to thwart the convincing scam attempt, they did detail the warning signs customers needed to watch out for as con artists become more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

New data from Westpac showed a 33 per cent increase in reported scams as of July, compared to the same period last year, with impersonation scams topping the most common type of fraud targeting customers.

Westpac's head of fraud, Ben Young, said there had been a significant increase in cases where scammers used software to mask their phone number with the number of a known business – a commonly employed tactic in impersonation scams, known as ‘call spoofing’.

“These scams are incredibly challenging to detect because, from the customer’s perspective, they appear to be getting a call from, say, Westpac, when in fact, it’s a scammer posing as a member of our fraud team calling from a completely different number,” Young said.

“The scammer will then use personal information they’ve fraudulently obtained, like quoting the customer’s name or last few digits of their credit card, to convince them the call is genuine,” he added.

Elderly woman holds up credit card and speaks on landline phone
Westpac is warning customers to be extra careful after a recent spike in scam activity. (Source: Getty)

Young explained further that scammers were not just impersonating banks.

“We are seeing a variety of cases where scammers appear to be calling from telco or energy providers, online retailers, government organisations, or even pretending to be family members,” he said.

He said Westpac was currently working with Optus and other telcos to apply blocks that could stop scammers from being able to use call-spoofing software and impersonating calls using their numbers.

“We urge Australians to remain cautious of any unexpected phone calls, text messages or emails from a known business, and always consider what they’re asking you to do," Young said.

"If ever in doubt, hang up and call back on a publicly listed number to ensure the call is genuine.”

Westpac has given a list of 'red flags' to help identify scam calls:

  • Unsolicited contact - They unexpectedly call, SMS or email you, claiming to be from a reputable business

  • They know personal information - They have often already fraudulently obtained personal details like your name, ending digits on your credit card or approximate location, which makes them appear legitimate

  • They want you to action something - They will instruct you to complete an action while on the phone to them, such as updating your banking details, increasing your daily payment limit, downloading an app or sending money to a ‘new’ account

  • They use spoofing software - They may use software to send a fake SMS that appears to be from the business they’re allegedly calling you from while on the phone with you to convince you the call is genuine

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