“I asked the customer what the transfer was for, which is a standard question when we’re transferring funds,” Keryn said. “And she said it was for an investment, but she wasn’t sure what the investment actually was.”
The customer – we’ll call her Michelle (for privacy) – told Keryn she was making the transfer on behalf of her daughter, who’d texted her about needing $9,000 for an investment. When Keryn asked some key questions, Michelle said she’d text her daughter for more information.
“Michelle told me, ‘Yep, I’ve texted my daughter and she said the investment is all fine and to transfer the money’,” Keryn recalls, who found it unusual that this exchange was happening via text message. “I asked her if she’d had a verbal conversation with her daughter, and Michelle told me they were chatting via the WhatsApp messaging service.”
That’s when the penny dropped. Michelle was being scammed.
Scammers have been using text messages claiming to be a friend or family member in need of money. The messages come through from a random phone number, sometimes on WhatsApp, usually saying something like: “Hi mum, I’ve lost my phone so I’m using a friend’s but it’s about to run out of battery. Can you message me back on this number?”
Scammers often pretend to be family members in trouble, sending text messages asking for help from a new phone number. Be alert to any unexpected or unusual requests.
Sounds pretty harmless, right? The concerned parent messages back on the new number, they chat, and then talk turns to needing money – usually a pretty large amount. This sounded like the situation that Michelle was now in.
“I explained I wasn’t comfortable transferring the funds until Michelle sat down with her daughter – in person – and got some more details,” Keryn says. “She was so worried that we weren’t going to help her, which made me wonder what these scammers on the other end of the messages were actually saying to her.”
A few days later, Keryn’s inbox pinged with an email from a Bank Australia co-worker. Michelle had been in touch to thank Keryn for saving her $9,000. She’d called her daughter to apologise about not transferring money for the investment yet. Her daughter had no idea what she was talking about.
“Michelle was quite shocked that things had gone so far, and she was so thankful that I’d asked her those questions,” says Keryn, who is delighted to have helped protect her customer from such a significant loss.
With scams becoming more sophisticated, it’s important to be alert. If you get a text from a family member asking for money, speak to them verbally about whether or not it’s legitimate. If the message isn’t from them, delete and block the number immediately. If you’ve clicked on any links or engaged in any way, it’s a good idea to contact your bank.
“At Bank Australia, we get emails and alerts almost daily about various scams doing the rounds and what to look out for,” Keryn says. “It’s definitely made me more aware. And I was really happy that I helped save Michelle’s $9,000.”
Read more about protecting yourself from scams.