Consumer Action CEO Stephanie Tonkin has welcomed the extra funding announced in the Federal Budget for the Anti-Scam Centre, saying it’s a first step in the right direction, but deep concerns remain for the many thousands of Australians who have been scammed and received little or no help from their banks.
“We speak to people who call our helplines like Bill, who have lost thousands of dollars, even their entire life savings to scammers, causing disaster for them and their family. It’s heart-breaking.
“We support the National Anti-Scams Centre, but it will only deliver meaningful outcomes if it is backed up by new laws that mandate industry action on scam prevention and impose liability for losses when they fail. What we need now is for banks to reimburse scams victims -except in circumstances of gross negligence- and this needs to be made mandatory by the Federal Government,” Ms Tonkin said.
Bill Hall’s case is typical. The self-funded retiree engaged a builder to renovate his home and hackers intercepted an email between him and his renovator containing a $26,000 invoice. They altered the invoice with different bank account details. His bank failed to identify the discrepancy between the name on the account and the number of the account that Bill transferred the money to. Bill ended up losing $20,000.
“It was a real kick-in-the-guts when it happened to me, but I am lucky as some people have lost absolutely everything.” Bill said.
“I hope this new Anti-Scam Centre makes financial organisations and especially the banks responsible when their accounts and systems are being used for fraudulent purposes. I would like to see a requirement for financial institutions to act to upgrade their systems to combat scams as soon as they appear anywhere in the world.
“Will it help me get my money back? I hope so,” he said.
As with many of the scams that clients of Consumer Action report, there are technologies and safeguards Bill’s bank could have used to help alert him to the scam or stop the money being lost. The National Anti-Scams Centre will only achieve its purpose if the Government also introduces meaningful obligations on banks and other industries that create the financial incentive for them to meet community expectations in scam prevention.
“I am going to keep pushing for justice, not just for me but for everyone this has happened to,” Bill said.
Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567, firstname.lastname@example.org