A NAB branch manager from St Ives helped save a customer from losing $400,000 to a sophisticated invoice scam.
Just before Christmas, Dennis*, a regular customer of the St Ives branch in NSW wanted to deposit a $400,000 cheque to his solicitor for a property purchase.
Dennis works in property development and had purchased property before through the same solicitor, so despite it being a big sum of money, this wasn’t completely foreign to Dennis, and he trusted his solicitor.
The solicitor sent an invoice via email with all the payment details, and Dennis printed this off to complete the payment in the branch.
What Dennis or his solicitor didn’t know was criminals hacked into the solicitor’s emails and sent an identical-looking invoice. All the details looked the same, even the name of the email address matched, but the BSB and account number changed to a different bank.
Having been trained to spot red flags with invoice scams, NAB St Ives Branch Manager, Anu Mishra said he began asking Dennis questions to ensure everything was legitimate.
“We’re trained to ask questions to understand the situation more and wanted to make sure the details were definitely correct,” Anu said.
“Some people feel like we’re being nosey by asking questions, or that we don’t trust someone, but what we’re really trying to do is to make sure customers aren’t getting caught up in a scam.”
Unfortunately invoice scams can be tricky for a customer to spot as the customer has no reason to doubt the person who sent the invoice.
Anu asked Dennis whether he had another recent invoice to support the payment details as legitimate, but he didn’t have matching documentation which was enough for Anu to slow down and wait for confirmation of the details.
“Understandably, the customer wants the payment to go through as quickly as possible, but when there’s a red flag for a scam, it’s more important to make sure we take our time to get the details right,” Anu said.
While waiting for Dennis to speak to his solicitor, another email came through from the solicitor’s email address urging Dennis to make the payment. This was followed by a call on WhatsApp, and when Dennis noticed a different accent on the caller, it caused him to cast doubt over the authenticity of the invoice. That’s when Anu decided against completing the transfer.
“It felt like we were being unhelpful by not making the payment that day, but that’s what we needed to do to ensure we didn’t fall for the scam when scammers are trying to create a sense of urgency,” Anu said.
Dennis came back into the branch the following day and seemed quite shaken.
“He had spoken to his solicitor that morning and found out that the payment details were changed, the emails were hacked, and he realised just how close he came to losing $400,000. The solicitor had no idea they’d been compromised either,” Anu said.
“If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank immediately.”
According to the ACCC Targeting Scams 2022 report, investment scams, also known as business email compromise or payment redirection scams cost Australians more than $224 million in 2022. The actual figure is expected to be much higher.
NAB runs free personal cyber security webinars to help people better protect themselves and their families from criminals. Anyone can register for a webinar now to improve their personal cyber security awareness.
*Customer’s name changed.
What NAB is doing to stop scammers
This year, NAB has more than 60 projects underway or completed to help address the global scam epidemic, including:
- Stopping the use of links in text messages 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 the best defence – NAB has sent 9 million emails to personal customers containing scam education and we offer free online security webinars for personal and business customers as well as 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.
- For more information on how to spot an invoice scam, visit NAB’s Security page.