Scammers use stigma of silence to target $16M in just 12 months

8 November 2021

Bankwest is calling for an end to scam stigma, urging people to be more open with family and friends to guard against financial criminals, who in the past 12 months stood to fleece more than $16 million from customers.

Data collected by Bankwest’s Scams and Fraud team showed scammers targeted $16,677,648 of customer funds in the 12 months from September 2020 to September 2021, with the team managing to save about half that total.

However, criminals are increasingly taking advantage of cyber literacy and confidence gaps in older Australians.

Bankwest recorded more than 2700 cases and more than 11,500 calls in supporting customer scam issues in the period, with three quarters of cases coming from those aged 45-and-older, and a third in the 65-and-older bracket.

The most concerning threats recorded were Remote Access/IT scams – the most common, accounting for 29 per cent of cases – and Investment/Job scams, which were the most lucrative, making up a quarter of total exposure.

Both methods capitalised on the current climate of financial, employment, and psychological uncertainty, as well as an increased number of people working remotely and using computers.

Remote Access/IT scams commonly targeted the 65-plus age group and usually involve criminals posing as tech support to access a victim’s PC under the guise of fixing it, then installing malware to enable ongoing access.

Investment/Job scams often involve crypto investments that begin with an email for an ‘opportunity’, before the scammer helps the victim setup fake trading platforms, to which they then have no access.

One of the most malicious scams was Business Email Compromise threats, which commonly involves hackers gaining access to and editing business invoices, replacing payment details with their own bank accounts.

The maliciousness of this scam was highlighted in the numbers, with it accounting for just three per cent of cases, but 14 per cent of total exposure, netting scammers more than $1M in November and December 2020 alone.

The data has been released as part of Scams Awareness Week, which is this year themed “Let’s talk scams” and coincides with WA Seniors Week, with Bankwest calling for greater awareness and dialogue to fend off criminals.

Bankwest Executive Manager, Fraud Management Services Audrey Pajmon said: “Bankwest has been part of the fabric of WA for more than 125 years, and we’re committed to helping our communities stay safe and secure.

“One of the most effective weapons wielded by scammers is the hesitation of victims to discuss the matter and seek help, often out of embarrassment, but our data shows, increasingly, these victims are not alone.

“These criminals are professionals at what they do, developing increasingly sophisticated methods and preying on our most fundamental human needs, so it’s critical we eliminate the stigma of embarrassment.

“We’ve partnered with the WA Council on the Aging (COTA), and we’re conducting a range of initiatives to raise awareness and dialogue around scams, particularly in the highly-targeted segments, to bring this issue to the fore.

“Bankwest does everything it can to recover funds, but it’s not always possible, particularly if victims are willing participants in transactions, which is why we’re encouraging people to be aware and talk about scams.

“Discussing concerns with friends and family is critical, because what we can recall or recover changes from case to case and, overall, of the $16M customers stood to lose in the past year, about half was saved from scammers.

“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 more senior Australians, on how to stay safe online, with information covering scams, frauds, and financial abuse.”

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

18 to 24 (%) 25 to 34 (%) 35 to 44 (%) 45 to 54 (%) 55 to 64 (%) 65+ (%)
4 9 13 19 18 36

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

Scam type
No of cases
Total exposure value ($)
Threat and penalty 555 3,283,592
Remote Access/IT 801 3,733,136
Unexpected money 342 1,244,634
Business email compromise 88 1,244,634
Buying/Selling 67 207,759

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 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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