Bankwest, WA Government join forces as scams spike in COVID-19 era

18 June 2020

Bankwest and the State Government have joined forces to raise awareness of financial elder abuse, as the WA institution records significant increases in scams targeting older Australians.

This week marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, with the recognition coming at a time when scammers have increased their targeting of vulnerable Australians during COVID-19.

Bankwest has resolved more than 1,400 scam cases since last November, recovering 78 per cent of customer funds (~$6.5M), with customer calls to its scams team up 50 per cent in that period.

Customers aged 60-years and older were among the highest represented demographics in Bankwest’s recorded cases, with more than 20 per cent of scams targeting the age group.

The most common scams targeting older customers were remote access crimes – whereby criminals gained access to customers’ computers – cryptocurrency and relationship scams.

Fake cryptocurrency campaigns have been the method-of-choice for criminals throughout COVID-19, with Bankwest recording an increase in cases of 54 per cent through the pandemic.

Relationship scams, while not as common as cryptocurrency, have been among the most financially damaging, with customer exposure via dating sites and social media about $1 million.

Bankwest EGM Sinead Taylor said: “The health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and the community remains our number one priority during this time of uncertainty.

“Financial elder abuse is a scourge targeting the most vulnerable members of our community, and Bankwest is committed to working with the State Government to stamp it out.

“Addressing such a widespread issue requires a comprehensive response and Bankwest continues to enhance measures to protect customers from these criminals.

“Our dedicated, highly-skilled scams team supports customers with a real-time digital detection system that monitors and flags suspicious account activity.

“We recently reached out to 8,000 older customers to upskill them in digital banking during COVID-19, including arming them with advice on how to identify and avoid scams and frauds.

“We’ll continue to update our educational material, such as our Safe & Savvy Guide and ‘security threats’ info on the Bankwest website to ensure customers are armed with the latest advice.

“Bankwest has an important role to play in tackling financial elder abuse and, alongside the State Government, we’re committed to ensuring vulnerable customers are supported and protected.”

Minister for Seniors and Ageing, Hon Mick Murray MLA, said: “I congratulate Bankwest on the outstanding work it is doing in helping to protect older Western Australians.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a significant increase in scams targeting vulnerable members of the community, particularly older people.

“It is very encouraging to see leaders in the banking sector, such as Bankwest, taking a proactive approach to protecting Western Australian Seniors from unscrupulous scammers.

“All older people deserve to live their lives with dignity and respect.”

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences that matter 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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