A man has revealed how he lost a six-figure sum after scammers pretended to be his bank and took control of his account.
Tim Watkins, who banks with NAB, received a text message on March 18 that $800 of his own money had been spent on Amazon gift cards.
The text turned out to be from the same number NAB had been using to message him since January last year.
Mr Watkins said he had no reason to believe it was suspicious and believed someone had actually used his account to purchase the gift cards.
His exchange with the scammers afterwards led to him losing six figures in minutes, prompting him to issue a dire warning to Aussies.
He said he had missed an important sign that could have prevented him from handing over so much money.
Tim Watkins, who banks at NAB, received a text message on March 18 informing him that $800 of his own money had been spent on Amazon gift cards
“Don’t reply to a text if you are unsure, the bank will contact you if it really is them,” Watkins told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Watkins had called the number provided in the text message sent by the scammers.
They asked him to log into his bank account and send them the one-time code that is normally sent by a bank to a customer to verify who they are.
Mr Watkins eventually gave 10 one-time codes to the scammers after they claimed the number he gave them was wrong or too much time had passed.
The scammers then used each code to authorize a transaction on his behalf, withdrawing more than $100,000 from his personal and business accounts within 10 minutes.
“On returning home, I logged into NAB online to find out that a significant six-figure sum had been debited, wiping out my business and personal bank accounts,” said Mr Watkins.
Impersonating a company or government agency is known as a spoof scam.
It is usually performed by scammers who can access a company’s phone number and use it to trick customers.
“I immediately reported this to NAB Fraud, who said they would be contacting the main receiving bank of nine of the transactions (at) UBank… a division of NAB,” Mr Watkins said.
The tenth transaction had ended up in an account with Bendigo Bank.
“Because I had no funds in my personal or business accounts and due to the exceptional circumstances and urgent requirements to honor payments, I applied for an immediate credit facility, but this was rejected by NAB,” said Mr Watkins.
Mr Watkins claims NAB was ‘consistently unhelpful and not at all sympathetic’ over the next few weeks.
“I was also surprised that they didn’t seem to have a protocol to deal with the cyber scam, nor to help me through this very traumatic time,” he said.
Mr Watkins lodged a complaint with The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) and later the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
He was then contacted by NAB and told that the bank was ‘not liable for the money stolen’ as the transfers were made from Mr Watkin’s regular machine.
“As a ‘goodwill gesture’, the NAB was willing to offer me $10,000 for the full and final resolution of your dispute,” Mr. Watkins said.
“The offer was available until April 26, but if I continued to contest through AFCA, the offer would be withdrawn.”
Mr. Watkins claims that $29,213.09 was credited to his business account under the description “Scam Fund Recovery.”
Mr Watkins claims NAB was ‘consistently unhelpful’ during the ordeal, offering him $10,000 out of ‘goodwill’ which was withdrawn when he complained to AFCA (stock image)
“NAB Fraud has not provided any information on the recovery despite numerous phone calls and emails,” he said.
“NAB has to accept some degree of accountability and responsibility and I believe there is misconduct and a duty of care on their part and protecting my money.”
“How is it that a substantial amount of money can be transferred from my bank accounts to other accounts and banks in 10 minutes in 10 transactions that I have never dealt with in the past?
“Surely there should be red flags and algorithms to check, for example a callback request from NAB before the money is transferred.
Mr. Watkins still receives text messages from the once-trusted NAB phone number to this day.
Chris Sheehan, NAB Executive for Group Investigations and Fraud, said: ‘Unfortunately it is extremely difficult for us to get it back once the money has left an account and been sent to another bank. These criminals are becoming more sophisticated and operating with speed to move stolen money.”
“NAB has a comprehensive, bank-wide strategy with approximately 60 initiatives completed or in progress to combat fraud and scams.”
“While we cannot comment on individual cases, we have seen a significant increase in scams in recent years,” he said.
“We know the results can be devastating to the people they affect, both emotionally and financially,” said Mr Sheeran.
“This is a scam epidemic and it requires collaboration between government, banking, telecommunications, online and social media industries, consumer groups and regulators in a Team Australia approach to tackle the problem.
“When a customer receives a text message or calls impersonating NAB, it means that a criminal has ‘spoofed’ our number and is posing as us. NAB’s systems have not been breached in any way.
“NAB will never ask a customer to confirm, update, or disclose personal or banking information through a link in a text message or email. People need to know that their bank will never ask them to transfer money to another account to keep it safe.’
Scammers can use sophisticated software that hides their phone number as a phone contact in spoof scams (pictured) and often use trusted names such as banks
In February, NAB announced they were working with telecommunications providers to reduce the amount of “spoof” scams impersonating the bank.
“Scams impersonating NAB and other recognized brands have continued to rise, and it is clear that we need more industry collaboration to prevent this from happening,” said Chris Sheehan, NAB Executive for Group Investigations and Fraud.
Mr Sheeran said the bank had received a 38 per cent increase in scam reports last year.
They’ve seen a 50 percent drop in scam reports since December when they worked with providers to block known scam numbers, leading to a 70 percent reduction in customer losses.
There is no panacea to stop scams. Scammers are targeting individuals and essentially tricking us into handing over the keys to our accounts and money,” said Mr Sheeran.
Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022, an average of $20,000 per person.