Westpac has today announced new scam support and prevention measures and is warning customers to be extra careful after a recent spike in activity.
New Westpac data has found reported scams increased 33 per cent in July from the year prior as scammers become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. Impersonation scams are among the most common scams currently targeting customers.
In a bid to combat these scams, Westpac has worked with Optus to become the first private Australian business to block calls from scammers impersonating the bank. More than 94,000 Westpac phone numbers have now been added to a ‘Do Not Originate’ list, which will prevent scammers from impersonating Westpac numbers. The list is also shared with other carriers to extend the protection across different networks.
Westpac Head of Fraud, Ben Young, says: “We’ve seen a significant increase in cases where scammers are using software to mask their phone number with the number of a known business. This is 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.
“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,” Mr Young explains.
Westpac has today released an audio recording of a scammer pretending to be from Westpac’s fraud team when talking to a customer. The attempted scam failed after Westpac detected the suspicious transaction before any funds were sent. The call demonstrates some of the warning signs customers should watch out for.
“It’s not only banks scammers are impersonating. 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,” Mr Young added.
“To combat these scams, we’re working with Optus and other telco partners to apply blocks that will now stop scammers from being able to use call spoofing software and impersonate calls using Westpac’s number.
“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. If ever in doubt, hang up and call back on a publicly listed number to ensure the call is genuine.”
Stuart Pritchard, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Government, Enterprise and Business at Optus says, “Scams are a plague on many hardworking Australians. Optus is pleased to work closely with Westpac to offer a solution that will enable it to become a leader in the financial industry in regard to better protecting their customers from scam calls.
“We welcome Westpac’s decision to engage Optus, who together with the wider telco industry are taking steps to address the ever-changing threat landscape and keep more customers safe from falling victim to these terrible crimes.”
Responding to the ongoing rise in scam activity, Westpac is taking additional steps to support customers over the coming months. These include increasing scam specialists by 50 per cent and launching new digital chat capabilities to enable branch staff to connect directly with Westpac’s scam team.
“We want customers to know that support is available if they need it. If you think you may have been scammed, it’s important you contact your bank immediately. The sooner you act, the better chance we have at reducing the impact of that scam,” Mr Young added.