Bankwest calls for caution as criminals haul in millions in scam assault

3 May 2021

Bankwest is calling on the community and customers to be on guard against an ongoing criminal assault, with its scams and fraud team having identified and prevented more than 1000 cases worth $6 million in just six months.

The analysis is a part of Bankwest’s ongoing commitment to prioritising customers’ financial wellbeing, with detection, communication and education of threats key pillars in protecting customers.

Bankwest looked at scams and fraud activity from October 2020 to March 2021, inclusive, and found criminals were consistently targeting the 60-and-over age group, which accounted for 45 per cent of cases.

Older Australians most commonly fell victim to Remote Access/IT scams, followed by Investment, and Unexpected Money/Prize rorts, with fraudsters continuing to capitalise on the financial and general uncertainty of COVID-19.

Investment scams, such as cryptocurrency cons, were a lucrative operation for criminals as the most common attack across every age group, and with the 328 cases recorded carrying a potential exposure of $1.3 million.

Business and email hacks, despite being the least common threat at just nine cases, had the highest potential exposure value at close to $1.4 million, followed by Remote Access/IT ($1.37M) and Investment ($1.34M) scams.

Of significant concern was the increasing trend identified by Bankwest’s scams and fraud team in Remote Access/IT cases, which rose from three in October, to 73 in March, with 255 across the six months.

Scammers are also seeking to capitalise on the home streaming boom, obtaining credit card details by sending spoofed text messages advising victims they are eligible for refunds from services such as Amazon and Netflix.

The trends are consistent with those identified by Bankwest’s internal Crime Stop initiative, which this month marks its second anniversary of recognising colleagues who detect and prevent cybercrimes.

Crime Stop has recognised colleagues for saving about $44 million of customer funds from criminals in its first two years, with Remote Access/IT scams not only among the most prolific, but also the most financially damaging.

Remote Access/IT scams usually involve criminals posing as telco tech support to gain access to victims’ PCs under the guise of fixing fictional issues, then infecting the machines with malware that enables ongoing access.

Bankwest’s Top 5 tips for protecting against scams:

  1. Never give out personal information, including SMS codes, to unknown third parties
  2. Never let unknown/unverified third parties access your devices
  3. Always verify unsolicited calls by calling the number on the official website
  4. Do not click on suspicious text pop-up windows from websites, such as those informing you of an unexpected cash or prize win
  5. Do not click on links or open attachments in emails from unverified senders.

Bankwest Chief Customer Officer Paul Vivian said: “Our priority is supporting customers and communities in the recovery from 2020, and it’s concerning to see criminals targeting vulnerable Australians in this way.

“The increasing trends in Remote Access/IT scams are particularly malicious, as fraudsters capitalise on the vulnerabilities of those less familiar with modern technology to gain access to – and steal – their life savings.

“However, while older Australians are over-represented as victims of this activity, we can see that they’re not alone in being conned out of their money, with every age group falling to cryptocurrency and Investment scams.

“Bankwest does everything it can to recover customer funds, but it’s not always possible, particularly if someone has willingly participated in the transaction, which is why it’s so important for people to be aware and vigilant.

Scamwatch provides a wealth of support material, while Bankwest’s Safe and Savvy Guide helps educate and inform customers, particularly those in the highly-targeted age groups, of the dangers of scams and fraud.”

Proportion of scam cases by age group 
(October 2020 – March 2021)

  18 to 29 (%)
30 to 39 (%) 40 to 49 (%)
50 to 59 (%)
60+ (%)
Age 7.32
16.38 22.64 44.61

Scam type by age group
(October 2020 – March 2021)

Scam type
18 to 29
30 to 39
40 to 49 50 to 59 60+
Business/email hack
0 4 3 1 1
5 6 1 4 11
31 62 84 130
2 11 21 34
Remote Access/IT
13 22 26 44 150
Threat and penalty
17 7 6 3 15
Unexpected money/prize
16 22 61 78 122

Scam type by volume & exposure value
(October 2020 – March 2021)

Scam type
No of cases  Total exposure value ($)
Average exposure value ($)
328 1,339,304
Unexpected money/prize
299 889,222
Remote Access/IT
544,538 7,563.03
Threat and penalty
48 534,139
27 87,019
Business/email hack
9 1,384,208

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day and our purpose is to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers and communities. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for more than 1.1 million customers across Australia. Our customers enjoy access to an extensive network of branches and business centres, direct and third-party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour banking on the telephone, internet and the Bankwest App. Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit license 234945.

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