Demands for banks to upgrade consumer protection after 81yo loses $40k in scam

Consumer NZ is warning New Zealand banks are lagging far behind banks in other countries when it comes to protecting consumers from scams.

It comes after an 81-year-old grandfather recently had $40,000 stolen from him, sparking impassioned calls for change.

A lifetime of savings for the grandkids - gone, in a flash.

"I never thought it would ever happen to me," the victim told Newshub.

The scam victim is in their 80s. He wishes to remain anonymous - feeling ashamed.

"I was pretty upset - I didn't know which way to turn - I had that money saved up for my granddaughter and my son and his wife," they said.

It all started with a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer.

"I was told they were working on a sting and they want to transfer that money into the bank account. And I'd get instructions on who to send it to," the victim said.

"So I said 'yeah OK - I can do that if it's going to help the situation'."

Our victim even made a trip into the bank to talk to a teller about transferring money to an offshore account they'd never used before. It's at this point critics say the bank should've picked up the scam.

The victim doesn't want the name of the bank revealed but it's one of New Zealand's largest providers.

In a statement to Newshub the bank said: "Our branch staff showed him material designed to help spot scams... asked on three occasions if he was sure he wasn't being scammed.

"The customer assured us the payment was legitimate."

But victim advocates say banks should be doing more to protect their customers.

"Don't rely on the one fact that just because the customer says it makes it right. We know the scammers are grooming them. We know they're walking them through the process - sometimes they're even on the phone when they walk into the branch," independent scam investigator Bronwyn Groot said.

She said tellers should be asking more questions.

"Did someone talk to you over the phone? Have you met this person?" Groot said.

"We need to slow the payments down particularly when you've got someone whose spending pattern is outside the norm. Slow it down and give your fraud teams to investigate it."

Consumer NZ said banks around the world are already doing this.

"Yes - New Zealand banking is behind," Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy told Newshub.

Last month New Zealand banks said they'd do better. Among their promises was to work to create an industry-wide checking service. But time is ticking.

"Given the pace the New Zealand banking systems moves, it could be some years before we see this introduced," Duffy said.

All the while the number of victims is growing.

"We are seeing an increase. I think what worries us is that because of shame they might not be telling the bank or telling people they've been involved in a scam," said Age Concern CEO Karen Billings-Jensen.

A government cyber security organisation says Kiwis are losing millions every years - and police say they're swamped in callouts.

"Nationally there will be hundreds of cases a day being reported to police and we do know not all fraud is reported, so we know the scale of it is truly massive," said Detective Senior Sergeant Ryan Bunting.

All this is all too late for this 81-year-old grandfather.