Scammers more creative, watchdog says

Nicola Sladden
Nicola Sladden
Scammers are becoming far more creative in finding new ways to engage and groom their victims, banking ombudsman Nicola Sladden says.

Releasing her annual report yesterday, Ms Sladden said scammers were highly sophisticated and the new breed were masters of manipulation.

"They use fear to their advantage."

Most people could tell about a time they had a phone call or email trying to trick them into handing over their bank account details. A request might come to help a Nigerian prince receive his inheritance.

"Those guys are so obvious, now do people fall for that?"

Scammers were now more creative in finding ways to groom their victims, she said.

Accessing bank details did not come until much later.

The end game was still the same. By distracting people with terrible news, scammers quickly moved on to how they could help "fix things", gambling on people not stopping to check anything until it was too late.

The distraction could come in the form of good news.

People could be told they had won a prize, they had been selected for a holiday or their profile had been online, the scammer wanted to get in touch but their subscription was about to end.

In the last financial year, Ms Sladden's office had monitored a 37% increase in scam cases.

The losses were more than many would expect, sometimes hundreds of thousands and the impact was not just financial.

"We talk to victims every day who are too stressed and embarrassed to tell their families. Others don't even want to give us their names."

The advice to anyone about to click on a link or accept "help" over the phone was to stop and check whether they were being manipulated, she said.

Banks were required to have appropriate security systems in place and to educate their customers about banking. They would also cover losses for fraud in accordance with the Code of Banking Practice.

Ms Sladden had a sense from her own office cases and research that seniors were losing the most.

"We have made a concerted effort over the last six months to connect with government, industry and consumer organisations with a focus on seniors to share the lessons from our cases."

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