As wet weather continues along the east coast of Australia, scammers are preying on vulnerable people amid reports of increased flood-related financial crime in NSW and Queensland.
Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) members are reporting increases in scams, prompting the organisation to warn flood-affected people to be on the lookout for scammers posing as financial services employees, government assistance, insurers, or fundraisers that are preying on distressed individuals and leveraging interruptions to telecommunications.
Post-disaster scam tactics
COBA Director of Services and Financial Crimes Leanne Vale said scammers targeting Australians have become sophisticated at impersonating organisations and manipulating emotions, particularly around natural disasters.
"Unfortunately, Australia has experienced a significant number of catastrophic natural disasters in recent years, and scammers are increasingly targeting impacted individuals with fraudulent transactions while technology is down and people have decreased visibility of their finances," Ms Vale said.
"The insurance activity that will take place now and over the coming months is also a rich environment for scammers, who will use pose as insurers and intercept cash payments through email and SMS.
"Following disaster events, scammers can impersonate government support services and attempt to divert fundraising for victims. People should be very alert to unsolicited contact."
Identifying a potential scam
Most scams require certain personal information from victims, and a scammer will likely ask for bank account details, credit card numbers, PINs, or passwords. They may also ask an individual to download software or click on a link.
"If you are in any doubt about the validity of a request, do not engage any further," Ms Vale said. "If someone claims to represent a financial institution, hang up the phone and call their hotline yourself. Until then, don't share anything that's personal to you.
"It's important to remember that banks or insurers will never proactively phone or send text messages to initiate financial assistance."
The Customer Owned Banking Association is the industry body for mutual banks, credit unions and building societies.
A former Australian Federal Police officer, Ms Vale is a leading expert on fraud and financial crimes with over three decades of experience. Her advice:
- Be wary of all approaches you did not initiate, especially if you are asked for personal details.
- Confirm the identity of the contact by calling the organisation directly.
- Do not disclose personal information in a phone call, such as bank account details, logins or passwords.
- Do not download software or click on web links you're not sure of.
- Consider your local post office when internet services are disrupted to print and mail any forms.
- Donate only to registered official charities. Verify the charity through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission website.
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