Westpac customers finding it more difficult to identify scams - survey

Online scams
"It's important everyone is vigilant about unsolicited contact." Photo credit: Getty Images

Nearly half of Westpac NZ's customers are finding it more difficult to identify scams now than they have previously, according to new research from the bank.

In a survey of more than 1300 Westpac NZ customers, 87 percent of respondents believed they had received a scam email, text or phone call in the last six months while 49 percent believed scams were becoming harder to identify.

Westpac NZ head of financial crime Mark Coxhead said techniques used by scammers have become significantly more advanced in the past year. 

"There's a notion out there that it's only vulnerable populations, or older generations who are less ‘tech-savvy' that fall victim to scams, but the reality is that everyone is at risk," he said.

"It's important everyone is vigilant about unsolicited contact, whether that is a phone call out of the blue or a text message about a parcel you hadn't ordered."

The bank had audio of a scammer pretending to be a member of the 'Westpac Fraud Team' when talking to a customer, showing the complexity of modern scams.

That includes the fraudsters using personal information they have been able to illegally access in order to appear legitimate.

"They might be aware of your name, the end digits of your credit card number, or your approximate location and pair this with urgent requests to 'help' you remedy a situation," Coxhead said.

"They then call from a phone number that looks legitimate, so it can be hard for customers to know exactly who they're talking to. Fortunately, in this case another fraud detection system blocked the transaction, so the scam was unsuccessful."

Just last week CERT NZ revealed there were 500 incidents of scams and fraud reported to the government agency from April to June 2022, with almost $3.2 million lost.

CERT NZ said in the bank calls 'phone spoofing' software was used to change the actual phone number of the scammer to that of another number.

Some recipients were even being targeted multiple times.

"This happens when scammers call back, pretending to be from the bank and offering help to recover from the previous scam," it said.

Coxhead said it wasn't just banks being impersonated - telcos, government agencies and other service providers are also being spoofed.

"Recently we've seen scammers claiming to be from IRD and Waka Kotahi," he said.

Mr Coxhead says young people also agreed scams were becoming harder to spot, but were less concerned about becoming a victim which puts them at risk.

He urges customers to contact their bank immediately if they think they've been the target of a scam.

"We're working around the clock to keep our customers safe, but customers can help us and themselves by staying vigilant and reporting anything that doesn't seem right."

Westpac's warning signs customers should look out for:

  • Unsolicited contact from any organisation, even if they mention your personal details.
  • A sense of urgency in regard to making a payment or providing information.
  • Unusual payment methods like cryptocurrency, gift cards or overseas payments.

What customers should do:

  • Don't feel pressured to comply with a request urgently. Any genuine business or government agency will give you time to pay outstanding invoices, bills or fees.
  • If you get an urgent request to make a payment or provide personal information, contact the organisation using details on their official website to confirm whether the request is genuine.
  • Never share your online banking passwords.
  • Contact your bank as soon as possible if you suspect you have been scammed. Always be honest about what happened with your bank so that they can assist you and help keep your money safe. Contact CERT NZ too.