A small-town bank in South Australia has managed to save a local elderly couple from losing thousands of dollars to a sophisticated scam.

Key points:

  • A Riverland couple targeted by bank scammers were on the verge of losing $10,000
  • The branch manager said they see scam attempts on a weekly basis 
  • In 2022, Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to increasingly sophisticated scams 

Branch manager at National Australia Bank (NAB) Renmark, Tammy McBride, said it all started with a telephone call.

“The customers were targeted by a telephone call from the scammer who was pretending to work with NAB,” she said. 

‘Complex list of lies’

Ms McBride said online banking security measures then stopped a large transfer of $10,000 from the couple’s account.

“The scammers didn’t stop there and tried to convince the couple to take part in an operation to physically withdraw their cash from the branch,” she said. 

Staff at National Australia Bank (NAB) Renmark halted a suspicious transfer of $10,000. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

“The actual scammer had made up a complex list of lies and said the couple was helping to uncover fraud at our branch and that one of our staff members could potentially be corrupt — and that many customers had lost their money from our branch. 

“This is where they also pre-positioned the customers around the questions we would ask, given them answers, and put the distrust in the customers.” 

When a flustered elderly female customer then visited the bank, staff were concerned that she might be acting under duress.    

“They [the couple being scammed] are regular customers and the husband would normally come in by himself and request a smaller amount,” Ms McBride said. 

“It all looked unnatural and she looked quite nervous … We found out after that the scammer was listening to everything that was going on via the telephone in her handbag.”

Ms McBride said scams were a regular occurrence at the branch but rarely quite as bad as this one. 

“We actually see scams a couple of times a week which can sometimes be very complex,” she said. 

“I think this one just showed how sophisticated and dangerous a scam can be.”

Record loss to scammers 

The latest Renmark scam attempt comes as a record $3.1 billion in losses to scams was reported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2022. 

ACCC’s National Anti-Scam Centre executive general manager Heidi Snell says this form of fraud is becoming increasingly sophisticated. 

“They’re targeting Australians in everyday things which makes it hard to realise they are being scammed,” she said. 

“[Scammers] often build up a relationship and come across as knowing various things so that consumers trust them.”

“We are seeing an upward trend [in money lost to scams] but the role of the National Anti-Scam Centre is to work with industries like banks and the telecommunications — in the long term we hope to see the number go down again,” Ms Snell said. 

“But it is really important for consumers to take an active role in protecting themselves.” 

Posted , updated