Bankwest’s Safe and Savvy Report has identified the ruthless versatility of scammers, as they leverage economic uncertainty to target younger Australians, while exploiting cyber literacy gaps in older members of the community.
The Safe and Savvy Report, released in support of Scams Awareness Week, looked at data from September 2021 to September 2022, inclusive, identifying the Top 10 scams most often employed by criminals against their victims.
The figures highlighted the concerning and continuing trend of criminals taking advantage of cyber literacy and confidence gaps in older Australians, with those 65-years-old and above accounting for 44 per cent of cases.
Criminals used an unfamiliarity with technology in older Australians to launch Remote Access attacks, which were the most common category for the three older age groups – 45-54-years-old, 55-64-years-old, and 64-and-over.
Remote Access scams are characterised by criminals posing as tech support to access a victim’s device under the guise of performing urgent services, such as virus removal, then installing malware to enable ongoing access.
However, the report also found young Australians were being targeted amidst economic uncertainty, with Job & Investment scams (pyramid schemes; fake crypto sales) accounting for 29 per cent of cases in those aged 25-34.
It was the highest volume of cases in a single scam category for any age band, with the next highest standout coming with Remote Access scams accounting for 28 per cent of cases in those aged 65-years and older.
Bankwest recorded more than 7000 customer calls and more than 2600 confirmed scam cases in the period.
Threat & Penalty scams were the most common across all age groups, accounting for 23 per cent of all scams, and include fake alerts, or texts for overdue money, warning of a warrant for arrest unless payment is made.
Bankwest was able to recall or recover more than $10 million in the past 12 months, with the figures highlighting the importance of community education and awareness to avoid victims actively participating in the loss of funds.
Scams, as opposed to fraud, are defined by a willing participation – even if unwittingly – by the victim in the transaction, such as wilfully providing access to accounts or devices, or transferring money to a scam account.
Wilful participation can hinder financial institutions’ abilities to recover scammed funds, with the criminals often immediately withdrawing or moving the money to other accounts, making it near-impossible to track or recall.
Bankwest Executive Manager, Fraud Management Audrey Pajmon said: “Bankwest has been part of the fabric of WA for more than 125 years, and the Safe and Savvy report is part of our ongoing support for the community.
“More than 3000 Bankwest colleagues call WA home, and we’re dedicated to supporting our families, friends, and communities on critical social issues and Scams Awareness Week helps to raise awareness of a silent scourge.
“The threat of scams will be ever-present, as criminals alter tactics to avoid preventative measures, which means the best strategy to countering scammers is to inform and empower people to identify their methods.
“Bankwest does everything it can to recover every dollar, but it’s not always possible, particularly if victims are willing participants in transactions, which is why it’s critical for the community to stay informed and vigilant.
“I encourage people to arm themselves with an understanding of scams, with Scamwatch providing a wealth of support material, and the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams an invaluable education and awareness resource.
“Bankwest has also developed the Safe and Savvy Guide, which helps educate and inform customers, particularly older Australians, on how to stay safe online, with information covering scams, frauds, and financial abuse."