Maryborough miracle: Bankers confront scammer and save elderly woman from losing $10,000

National Australia Bank

Two NAB bankers at a regional Victorian branch have confronted a criminal on the phone, saving an elderly local woman from losing $10,000 to a complex and convincing phishing scam.

Last week, the customer in her 80s visited the Maryborough branch and asked to withdraw $10,000 in cash, telling the branch staff it was to pay her adult children back for a holiday.

The customer, who visits the branch regularly, is well-known to local bankers who found it unusual she would visit two days in a row and ask for such a large withdrawal.

Spotting scam red flags, customer service adviser Penny Hyde and branch manager Emily Grogan asked the customer some more questions before deciding not to go ahead with the transaction.

“That’s when the customer looked at Penny, grabbed her hand and said ‘Penny, you need to give me this money, it’s my money’ and she began tearing up,” Emily said.

After the customer awkwardly placed her handbag on the branch counter, Penny and Emily suspected there was someone else listening to their conversation.

“I asked the customer ‘has somebody asked you to come in here today?’ and the customer pointed to her handbag. The scammers were dialled in on the customer’s phone which was hidden in the handbag. They had been listening in the whole time,” Emily said.

“We asked the customer for her phone, and we could see that the call was still active.

Penny: “Who am I speaking to?”

Scammer: “You called me”.

Penny: “No, I didn’t. You called my friend and I’d like to know who this is!”

The confrontation rattled the scammer who hung up straight away.

The criminal had called the customer earlier to set up the con, pretending to be from a ‘scam-watch’ group, when he entangled the woman in an elaborate web of lies and deception.

He convinced her that she had already been scammed but said she could recover the money and help catch the ‘criminal’ if she attended her local branch. She was told to withdraw $10,000 of her own money and deposit it into an account at another bank – straight into the scammer’s hands.

By socially engineering the customer, the scammer convinced her that she couldn’t trust branch staff and needed to lie if the large withdrawal was questioned.

Going as far as calling a taxi for her, the scammer organised for the customer to be collected from her home and driven to the branch, where he demanded to be dialled into the conversation with bankers.

“The first red flag was the customer’s unusual visit to the branch and the second was the story about repaying her adult children for a family holiday – it just didn’t stack up,” Emily said.

“When we asked the customer where she was off to, she said she wasn’t sure yet and we agreed this isn’t good.”

Half an hour after the confrontation with the scammer and a lengthy chat with the customer about the phishing scam she had nearly fallen for, the Maryborough local realised she had been conned. However, thanks to her local NAB bankers, her $10,000 was safe and sound and had never left her account.

“It was like a lightbulb moment where she realised what had happened and then she got very upset and shaky. She felt betrayed and wanted to know how dare they do that to her,” Emily said.

In the days since the scammers had been foiled, they contacted the customer two more times to try to catch her out again.

Thanks to conversations with Penny and Emily, the customer knew how to spot the scam red flags herself.

“Now she knows the type of questions a bank will ask you over the phone and the type of conversation they’ll have with her. She knows what a scam is and to be cautious,” Emily said.

This Maryborough customer’s experience is almost identical to a similar scam in regional South Australia – where two local NAB bankers stopped a Renmark customer from withdrawing $10,000 to send to scammers.

“It’s heartbreaking for any customer, especially one this age and from a regional area – you’d almost feel targeted and you don’t really know about how wide and dangerous the world is,” Emily said.

While the NAB team is always looking for signs of someone being coached by scammers, not all scams share these same characteristics and hallmarks and can be harder to identify.

“Unfortunately, not all scams end this way – this is another important reminder of how sophisticated and dangerous scammers can be,” Emily said.

“This is another important wake up call for Australians to really question everything, be sceptical and be on the look out for red flags that could be a scam.”

“Scammers will try anything to steal your money and the wrong split-second decision can have devastating financial and emotional consequences.

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