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Jess Ridley, Westpac: Today Show TV presenter reveals how she was scammed out of $35k

Channel Nine TV host gets $35,000 waived by scammers who text her from Westpac’s OFFICIAL phone number: ‘The penny just dropped’

  • A high-profile TV reporter is robbed of $35,000 in a complicated scam
  • Scammers texted her from a legit Westpac number and led her along
  • Even the bank was shocked by the level of detail involved in the telephone scam

A high-profile journalist has been waived $35,000 by telephone scammers posing as her bank while she was in a hospital emergency room with her son.

Scammers sent a message last Friday from Sydney-based Nine Network presenter Jess Ridley, 33, a message from an official phone number linked to Westpac Bank.

The text warned the TV reporter — whose child had broken her arm — that a suspicious transaction had taken place on her account.

On the phone, the scammer then claimed to be an employee of the Westpac Fraud Team. He cited a reference number and used other basic authentication methods to give the scam a sense of validity.

Ms. Ridley was led through a series of fake official-sounding steps over the weekend to make her account “more secure” – before realizing Monday that she had been the victim of a detailed scam and her pockets were $35,000 lighter.

Reporter Jess Ridley (pictured) said the scam could get to anyone if even a journalist couldn't pick up the details

Reporter Jess Ridley (pictured) said the scam could get to anyone if even a journalist couldn’t pick up the details

HOW THE SCAM WORKED AFTER TEXT

While Mrs. Ridley waited in the hospital to try and call Westpac’s phone line, the scammers offered to call her later so she wouldn’t have to call the real Westpac line.

“Owen Clancy from the Fraud Department” gave her a reference number to make it sound official.

The scammer told Mrs. Ridley on the phone that he would give her a new account, with a different account number and BSB, to make her money more secure.

Over the weekend, the scammer guided her through the steps of depositing $35,000 into “her” new account.

Instead, the scammers took the money. Ms. Ridley was told it was likely they had moved her funds into untraceable cryptocurrency.

Ms Ridley said when she couldn’t see the money she had allegedly transferred to her own account, she called the scammer’s number and contacted a legitimate Westpac employee.

“Monday morning I called Westpac at the same number (that the scammers had used) and mentioned my case number,” she told Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

“I was first silenced on the other end of the line and this person just said we don’t know about this – and the penny dropped.

Ms Ridley said she thought she, as a journalist, had checks and balances, but was still conditioned to believe she was talking to the fraud department.

“It can happen to anyone,” she said.

“That’s why I thought it was worth talking about because it sounds like a lot is happening.”

The scammers appeared to be using caller ID spoofing or overstamping technology — where a fraud syndicate uses a company’s legitimate phone number to defraud consumers.

Mrs. Ridley didn’t think to question the scammer’s first text message.

Ms. Ridley had previously received legitimate authorized messages from the same Westpac number, so she didn’t suspect she was on the brink of a secret scam.

Fordham said, ‘You google that number and I did it… it comes up as Westpac, you’d assume you’re talking to Westpac.’

Ms Ridley appears on the Today show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham it was worth talking about her experience as the scam spreads

Ms Ridley appears on the Today show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham it was worth talking about her experience as the scam spreads

Ms Ridley said she was initially relieved as she believed the initial fraudulent transaction had been handled correctly.

“You’re thinking ‘oh great Westpac is right out there,'” she said.

Mrs. Ridley tried to call Westpac in response to the message, but hung up while waiting on the line.

She says scammers had taken advantage of her attention being split between the fraud on her account and her son in hospital.

Westpac refunded Ms. Ridley's money and launched an internal investigation into how the scam works

Westpac refunded Ms. Ridley’s money and launched an internal investigation into how the scam works

“I think my mistake was having a two-year-old with a broken arm in an emergency center.

“It really hurts when you look at that and go I’m a small business owner and this guy has kept calling me on the same number while I’m in triage with my son.”

The journalist thinks she has been scammed by a former employee of the bank.

“Looking back now, I feel like this person should have worked at one of these Westpac call centers.”

She said the bank was as surprised as she was at the level of detail involved in the scam.

“They told me they couldn’t believe the extent of the sophistication.

“Now an investigation has been launched into the scam itself within the bank.”

Westpac eventually covered Mrs. Ridley’s losses.

In a statement, Westpac urged Australians to be vigilant about scams.

Read Westpac’s full statement to Daily Mail Australia

A Westpac spokeswoman said: “Due to confidentiality obligations, we are unable to comment on individual customer cases.

“Overall, however, there has been an increase in reported scams and we encourage all Australians to be vigilant.

“Westpac invests heavily in fraud prevention and has robust processes to warn and protect customers. We work hard to recover money for customers wherever possible.

“Customers should be wary of unexpected phone calls, texts or emails claiming to be from their bank or other reputable organization, and always think about what they are asking.

‘When in doubt, ask for a reference number and call back on a public number to confirm the call was genuine. Your bank will never ask you to click on a link to login to your banking or make a payment.

‘If you think you have been scammed, please contact your bank immediately. Westpac customers can call 132 032 to seek help or report suspicious activity.”

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