More reports of bank scams targeting younger generations as teen loses life savings to spoofing

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People in their 20s and 30s may be losing more money in scams than those in older age brackets, as experts warn “ruthless” organised crime gangs are behind the attacks.

Data from Consumer Protection, a branch of the West Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, showed 25 to 34-year-olds reported losing more of their hard-earned cash than older Australians.

A Consumer Protection spokesperson said the agency was only able to see an age breakdown of scam reports lodged online, which made up a third of the total complaints within the state.

The reports received via email, phone, or Crime Stoppers did not have age details.

According to the available breakdown, those in the younger age bracket lost more than $1 million in 2019, compared to those over 65 who were swindled out of about $100,000.

The trend continued in 2020, when those aged 25 to 34 were scammed out of more than $1.6 million, while the baby boomers reported losing about $700,000.

And in 2021, the 25 to 34 group lost more than double the amount that older people were reportedly scammed out of.

The alarming figures also revealed those aged between 18 and 24 had reported an increase in scams every year for the past three years.

All up, Australians lost a record $2 billion in scams in the last recording period, and there are fears that figure will only rise.

Life savings gone

Aurora Casilli knows all too well how quickly scammers can take a person’s life savings.

She lost more than $36,000 in a scam last month.

The 18-year-old had been working two jobs since she was 14 after moving to Albany, on Western Australia’s south coast, from Italy.

“Throughout high school, I worked every day after school, and every weekend. And I just saved as much as I possibly could,” Ms Casilli told the ABC.

She had dreams of being a home owner and moving to the city to study a Bachelor of Arts or criminology.

But her home ownership dream came crashing down when she received a text message in the same message thread that the National Australia Bank had previously used to communicate with her.

The hackers were using a technique called spoofing, where they infiltrate an existing message thread and pretend to be someone they are not.

The text message told her to call a 1800 number as someone was about to receive a payment she had not authorised.

Ms Casilli phoned the number and said it seemed realistic because she was made to wait in line for about an hour.

“When I finally got to someone, they were like, ‘Can you please verify your name, date of birth, and address … someone is trying to get into your account’,” she said.

She said she was told she needed to create a new account and transfer her money.

They then hung up on her and that was when she knew it was a scam.

Ms Casilli said her mental health had deteriorated following the ordeal.

Organised crime gangs responsible

Ms Casilli felt she was let down by NAB because the scam appeared to come from its legitimate message thread.

She also questioned why NAB did not pause or put a holding period on an amount so excessive.

Other banks such as Commonwealth Bank have a holding period when transferring money to new accounts.

When questioned about why it had let the transaction pass, NAB declined to comment on Ms Casilli’s personal case.

NAB urged people to ensure any money transferred was to a trusted source and said it could not retrieve money that someone had willingly transferred.

Ms Casilli said she was offered a few thousand dollars from the bank as a courtesy but declined the offer, insisting it needed to do more to protect its customers.

Chris Sheehan, the executive for group investigations and fraud at NAB and former fraud detective with the Australian Federal Police, said authorities were playing catch-up with cyber criminals.

“They are transnational organised crime groups; they’re incredibly well-resourced,” Mr Sheehan said.

“They are incredibly robust, they’re ruthless, they’re the same groups that are trafficking drugs and firearms and human beings around the world.

“And they will continue to find new ways to exploit systems to generate profit, which is their entire business model.”

He said it was not just the elderly being conned.

“I think there’s a misperception out there that scam victims are typically older people, perhaps people who are less technologically savvy. That is absolutely not the case,” he said.

People who suspect they are being scammed are urged to report the behaviour.

(Original ABC Article)