There’s a reason our bankers ask customers questions like “what’s the purpose of your transfer?”. It helps them identify when customers are being manipulated, financially abused or scammed.
Despite being caught up in a TikToker’s video mocking banks for asking questions like this, Customer Advisor, Rosa Sakr, saved a customer from being victim of an elaborate romance scam by asking the very same question.
Barry*, a 65-year-old retired Pastor, came into the Hurstville branch and asked to transfer more than $1 million across three accounts for his fiancé. But when Rosa enquired further about the size and purpose of the transfer, Barry had no clear answer.
“Asking why a customer is transferring money out of their account is our best defence mechanism in a branch to help us prevent customers from being taken advantage of,” said Ms Sakr.
“People can do whatever they like with their money, but if there’s a chance that someone is acting against their own will, I will do my best to help them. Every time.”
Rosa could see the red flags and called on her branch manager, Clement Tan, for assistance.
With a few more probing questions, Clement discovered Barry had never met his fiancée and didn’t know to whom he was transferring the money.
When Clement suggested that Barry had been involved in a romance scam and explained the transfer could not be processed, the customer remained adamant that this was his fiancée’s money and she needed it transferred to the various accounts.
“Like many people, the customer never considered that anyone would deceive him like this,” Mr Tan said.
“He was in denial that he was the victim of a romance scam and that his fiancée, who he’d been in a relationship with for several months, could ever do something like this to him. He was angry we were holding up the transfer.
“Other than the $1 million that had been transferred into his account, Barry didn’t have a lot of money. His family all lived abroad, so we put him in touch with the Customer Support Hub and Good Shepherd to help him through his situation.”
After the transactions were blocked by Rosa and Clement, they contacted Group Investigations and Fraud to investigate further.
The original $1million transfer into Barry’s account was traced back to an ANZ customer’s account who was unaware they were a victim of an invoice scam.
“Not only was Barry the victim of a long running romance scam, he was being used as a mule to transfer funds from another scam,” said Mr Tan.
“I want people to know not to be embarrassed – it can happen to anyone. Scams can be complex and subtle, and we’re here to protect customers, even when they don’t know they need protecting.”
Even though the romance had come to an end, there was still a happy ending to this story. The Fraud team returned the stolen funds back to the ANZ customer.
And as for Rosa, she will continue asking customers the purpose of their transfer.
If you have been scammed or are uncertain about a transaction, contact your bank immediately. NAB customers can call 13 22 65, or visit nab.com.au/fraud for more information.
*the customer’s name has been changed to protect their identity