Scammers foiled after demanding the kitchen sink

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“Tell them you need the money for kitchen renovations”.

This is the lie scammers wanted a man in his 80s to tell bank staff if they questioned his $10,000 withdrawal.

“He was so fragile and he was in a panic,” customer advisor Sarah Woods said, after the elderly man visited the Hobart NAB branch recently.

Scammers had called the man earlier in the day and convinced him to clean out his account with a bank cheque made out to himself for ‘renovations’.

This was a red flag for 16-year-banker Sarah Woods, who could see the man was in trouble.

“When he said he wanted to do renovations but also wanted the cheque made out to himself, I knew something was up.”

Sarah asked the man a little more about his renovations to confirm her suspicions: the man was caught in an elaborate scam.

“Every time I asked him about his renovations he gave me a different answer,” she said.

“He was getting more and more uncomfortable and said ‘I’ve really got to do this and get out of here’ and that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to take the money out for him.

“I told him I was very concerned about what the money was for and these were red flags for a scam.”

Sarah and her branch manager took the man into a private office, where he broke down when he realised what was happening.

“He looked at me, held my hand and told me everything about the call he’d received, the demand the scammers made for a bank cheque and the lie they wanted him to tell me.

“He said the scammers got angry with him on the phone, they made threats and told him not to trust bank staff.”

But Sarah had stopped the scam in its tracks and the man’s money was safe.

“He told me ‘You’ve actually saved every cent of my money’ and from that point on we had a little bond and he kept cuddling me.”

The man left the branch thankful Sarah had stopped the scam and wary of unexpected phone calls and unusual demands for his money.

“It’s so rewarding to know I’ve saved this man’s money but it shows that scammers will stop at nothing.”

NAB Executive, Group Investigations Chris Sheehan said the case demonstrated how important the bank’s work to fight scams continues to be.

“Colleagues across the bank are working every day to reduce the impact of scams.

We have frontline colleagues, in branches like Sarah and on the phone at Fraud Ops, supporting customers in the moments after a scam has happened or been stopped to colleagues working on proactive initiatives designed to protect customers,” Mr Sheehan, a former Australian Federal Police executive, said.

“We have more to do but, it’s pleasing to see that we saw a decrease in losses between October and December 2023, despite customers reporting scams at a significantly high rate.

“It’s clear initiatives like removing links from text messages, making it harder for criminals to impersonate bank phone numbers, blocking payments to some high-risk crypto platforms and introducing payment alerts to the NAB app and Internet Banking are having an impact.”

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