Staying alert to ‘spoofing’ scams

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When NAB customer Sasha* received a phone call purporting to be from ‘NAB’ saying they were concerned about an ‘unusual transaction’, she was initially suspicious.

The caller reassured Sasha they were calling from NAB, and told her to check the number they’d called on. Sure enough, Sasha saw the number appeared to be the same as that listed on the bank’s website.

“The scammer told Sasha that someone had access to her account and was moving her money,” said Jenny Pham, a Lead in the Digital Fraud and Scams team.

Sasha was warned her account would be blocked to stop the unusual activity, and that she needed to transfer her money to a ‘safe account’ that she would be given the details for.

“With the number of data breaches happening across Australia, Sasha was naturally concerned someone may have had access to her details and may be stealing her hard-earned money,” said Jenny.

Sasha assumed she was dealing with a NAB representative, as she didn’t know that criminals can imitate ‘spoof’ the legitimate phone number of an organisation.

“Scammers can use software that makes the phone number they’re calling from appear on your device as belonging to a well-known organisation, such as a bank, the police or the tax office,” said Laura Hartley, NAB’s Manager Group Security Advisory & Awareness.

“This applies to text messages too. Criminals can send messages with the sender’s name set to ‘NAB’, ‘nbn’, or other organisations, which means their messages can appear in the same thread as other official texts sent from NAB.”

In Sasha’s case, she followed the scammer’s instructions and transferred all of her savings – a total of $17,436 – to another account the scammer had created.

“It was only after the call was disconnected, and Sasha noticed her bank account hadn’t been blocked – as the scammer said it would be – that she began to have doubts.”

Thankfully Sasha acted on her doubts and called NAB’s Fraud team, where she got through to Jenny.

Jenny listened to Sasha’s story and quickly realised she’d been caught out in a phone impersonation ‘spoofing’ scam.

“As Sasha acted on her concerns so quickly, we were able to stop the transfer of funds to the scammer’s account, and she was able to get her money back,” said Jenny. “But it’s important to note that this isn’t always possible depending on the nature or sophistication of the scam. We took action immediately to investigate.”

Unfortunately, due to the ability scammers have to imitate (‘spoof’) phone numbers, we can no longer implicitly trust incoming calls and texts as being from the name/number that appears on the phone.

“We need to treat each incoming call or text as suspicious,” said Laura, “and, if unsure, hang up and contact the organisation through a trusted channel – either the number listed on the back of your card, the app, or their official website.”

“NAB will also never ask you to transfer money to another account to keep it safe – it’s safe where it is.”

Scams Awareness Week

This week is Scams Awareness Week, and NAB is a proud partner with the Scams Awareness Network, helping raise awareness within the community on the threat of scams.

*Name changed to protect the customer’s identity 

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