Every year, thousands of Australian businesses are impacted by scams.
From investment scams to invoice scams, they are becoming more sophisticated and have been growing exponentially over the past few years.
It was this sophistication that almost cost NAB business customer, Shawn Smith* more than $200,000 earlier this year.
“I was looking at term deposit rates online when I found a very attractive offer from who I thought was Citibank,” said Mr Smith.
“The advertised rate was 6.8%, higher than my current rate with NAB, but not so high to set off alarm bells.
“I called my business banker, Abbas Shah, to request an instant transfer of funds totalling just over $200k.”
Too good to be true
Not long after making the initial transfer request, Mr Smith received a follow up call from his banker.
“When Shawn called me that morning, he told me he had found a Term Deposit rate of 6.8% from Citibank,” Mr Shah said.
“He was looking to break his existing term deposit with NAB straight away and transfer $200,000 to Citibank that day.
“I told him the 6.8% rate is too good to be true, but he was convinced it was genuine and he had got it in writing. He was so convinced that initially, he was not ready to listen to me.”
Mr Smith told his banker that he was called by the scammers – impersonating Citibank- and all aspects were explained professionally.
“Shawn told me that they sent professional brochures with proper trademarks. There was professional follow up and a direct line was given,” Mr Shah said.
“I could have said ‘Ok, go ahead’, but that’s not who I am. When I feel something is not right, I always want to go deeper into it.
“That’s when I asked him to share what he had in writing with me.
“He said that he’d signed the forms, and he had a brochure. He forwarded me the email and I went to Citibank’s website to check the term deposit rates. The highest was 4.7%, not 6.8%.”
Spotting the red flags
When Mr Shah looked at the brochures and emails the customer received from the scammer there were a few things that didn’t add up.
“The front page of brochure was exactly the same as Citibank but there were some other changes like weird bullet points and it said, ‘You have to deposit the money by this date to get the return’ so that urgency factor was there,” Mr Shah said.
“Finally, the account the scammers were asking the customer to transfer the money to what was an escrow account.
“I called the customer back and also sent him an email while I was on the phone to him.
“In my email I wrote to him, ‘This is a scam. DO NOT proceed. Look at their email address. It’s not coming from an official company email’.
“I told him to call the number on Citibank’s website.
“He called me back and said, ‘Abbas, you’re right. This rate is non-existent. This is a scam’”.
This customer is well educated and financially aware, and yet nearly fell victim to this scam.
What NAB is doing to stop scammers
NAB has a comprehensive, bank-wide strategy in place, with 33 initiatives recently completed to help reduce the impact of scams and fraud and help customers to be alert to scam red flags.
- Stopping the use of links in text messages[LB2] to customers.
- Introducing payment alerts to mobile and internet banking.
- Working with telcos to prevent spoofing and NAB impersonation scams.
- Placing blocks on some high-risk crypto currency platforms.
Top tips customers can take to protect themselves from scams
- Education is vital – we offer free online security webinars for personal and business customers and the community.
- If you’re unsure a person contacting you is from NAB – hang up, and call NAB using the number on your bank card or in your bank’s app.
- Your money is safe if it’s in your account. Once you move your money to another account, you lose control of it, and it can be very difficult for your bank to recover it for you. Never be pressured to move your money.
- If you think you’re a victim of a scam or fraudulent activity, contact your bank, and report it to Scam Watch.
- NAB offers free security education webinars to all Australians. Visit the NAB website to sign up for one today.
- For more information about the latest scams, advice and education visit the NAB Security Hub website.
*Shawn Smith is not the customer’s real name.