ACCC issues warning about fake bank messages

Australia’s consumer watchdog has sounded the alarm about sophisticated bank impersonation scams that have claimed a number of peoples’ life savings.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said scammers were using new technology to trick their victims. This included:

  • Making calls appear to come from a bank’s legitimate phone number.
  • Sending text messages that appear in the same conversation threads as genuine bank messages.

Another way scammers were inducing people to respond to their fake calls and texts was by making them seem urgent, such as by telling the recipient that fraudulent activity had been detected on their account.

Bank impersonation scams impersonate the big four banks and other institutions.

The ACCC’s top five signs of a bank impersonation scam

  1. There is a sense of urgency or threat to the message – such as “your bank account has been accessed”, “your bank account has been locked” or “a payment has been made from your account. If this was not you, please call (phone number)”.
  2. The message looks different to other messages in the SMS thread – for example different wording being used.
  3. The message contains a suspicious link. Never click on links.
  4. The SMS instructs you to call a particular number. Always find your bank’s phone number independently.
  5. The caller tells you to transfer money to a different account to “keep it safe” or for “further investigation”.

The ACCC said to suspect a scam if you’re told to urgently transfer funds to another account, you receive an SMS with a telephone number to call, or you’re asked to provide passwords, one-time security codes, pins or tokens over the phone.

Bank impersonation scams are “very hard to detect”

The ACCC’s Scamwatch service received 14,603 reports about bank impersonation scams in 2022.

“We are incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams because they can be so convincing, they are very hard to detect,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“We know of a man who lost over $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.”

“In another case, a man lost $38,000 after receiving a scam text message about a suspicious transaction. The scam text appeared in the same conversation thread as legitimate messages from his bank. He called the number in the text and was put through to a member of the banks’ fraud team. Unfortunately, it was an elaborate scam and he lost everything.”

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