An SOS to SMEs: See Through Scams



Among the risks I’ve helped our business customers manage during more than 30 years in my banking career with NAB, scams have become one of the most alarming and potentially devastating.

Scams are not new, but they’re becoming far more sophisticated and have been growing exponentially over the past few years, bringing down people and businesses.

Our research shows around one in three Australian small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have experienced a cyber-attack or data breach, losing on average, an estimated $19,000 each.

Yet only four in 10 Australian SMEs believe they are being very vigilant regarding their cyber security. Only one in seven businesses conduct training around scams and other cybersecurity risks.

We look after hundreds of thousands of businesses across Australia. From Cairns to Perth, when I’m out talking with business owners, I’m hearing more and more instances of malware attacks, invoice scams, ransomware and phishing – impersonation scams are also increasing.

They are stories that sound like the work of science fiction novelists. From mimicking the voice of loved ones and known business contacts, to infiltrating existing text message threads to exploit trust.

This is an overwhelming threat to businesses, and we must play strong defence together.

The real impact on Australian businesses.

As a bank, we are doing everything we can to help our customers look out for red flags, and our NAB colleagues are constantly refreshing their trainings around how to best identify fraudulent activities.

Recently, a NAB business banker prevented a business customer from losing $200,000 to a scammer impersonating a banker from an investment bank.

The scammer had contacted the customer offering a very high term deposit rate. The customer then called their NAB banker, looking to break their existing term deposit straight away and transfer $200,000 that day to the other bank.

Checks by their banker quickly revealed it was a scam. This customer is well educated and financially aware, and still nearly fell victim to this scam.

I’m hearing stories like this all too often. These scammers are often well funded, relentless, and smart with no ethical backbone, which makes them so dangerous.

What can businesses do to protect themselves from scams?

While technology is helping businesses become more productive and profitable, if it’s not secure, it can also make you more vulnerable to cybercriminals looking to exploit it.

There are solutions to help mitigate risk:

  • Ensure you have separate mobile phones and computers for work and personal use – this helps reduce exposure to a malware attack, which 36% of SMEs surveyed said they had been a victim of
  • Think about how you’re protecting yourself – invest in tools to keep your business safe such as Multi-Factor Authentication and antivirus software that is kept up to date. NAB has anti-virus software offers available to customers
  • Ring and check payment details when paying someone for the first time or if there is a change in account details – this helps reduce the risk of business email compromise scams, including invoice scams
  • Be cautious of any message that’s has a sense of urgency – scammers use these tactics to get you to act quickly and pray on people’s vulnerabilities. Pause before you react and call your banker if you’re not sure if contact is legitimate – your money is safe when it’s in your account.

What is NAB doing to help prevent businesses being scammed?

We currently have more than 60 projects underway across the bank to reduce the impact of scams. One being the removal of all links from unexpected text messages from NAB – which we’ve just done. Links in text messages have been replaced with advice directing customers to the bank’s website, to call the bank, or head to Internet Banking or the NAB App, to take a specific action.

We’re also monitoring customer accounts 24/7 for signs of suspicious activity, as well as working with telcos to significantly reducing spoofing scams that are targeting our customers. And we’re already seeing results, with a 29% reduction in reports of NAB-branded spoofing scams between January and May.

Our business bankers are also being trained to have conversations with their customers about scams. Community and customer education is key and NAB holds free monthly webinars for anyone to attend.

This all helps, but unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for scam prevention. We need a comprehensive, ‘Team Australia’ effort with everyone – including our customers – keeping vigilant for potential scams.

Remember, if you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank or banker immediately using the number on the back of your bank card or website. And check out our Business Security Hub for practical tips and helpful webinars on how to identify and see through scams.



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