Westpac rolls out real-time alerts to help protect customers from scams and fraud

With a spike in scams targeting Australians since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Westpac is taking further steps to protect its customers through implementing new scam-detection technology across its branch network. The new technology will send Westpac branch employees real-time alerts as payments are being processed, so that suspicious transactions can be identified and investigated on-the-spot.

Westpac’s Chief Customer Engagement Officer, Ross Miller, said the move will help further safeguard customers from losing funds to scams and fraud.

“Scams and fraud continue to be a real issue in the community, with our research showing the average person loses $12,000 when scammed1. But the financial and emotional toll can be much higher.

“While we can’t stop every loss, this is another layer in the net to help catch high risk transactions by using the latest real-time technology to analyse the transaction and detect potential scams or fraudulent activity. “We’re also using people power to bolster this technology, including further training for our frontline bankers to help with monitoring transactions and supporting customers if there is cause for concern.

“These changes will further enhance Westpac’s scam and fraud detection capabilities across all our banking channels; whether using our online and mobile banking services, making online purchases, or transacting in our branches.”

The technology works by providing real-time analysis through Westpac’s dedicated fraud team to indicate if the transaction is at high risk of being a scam or fraud. If a transaction is suspected fraudulent, the system will prompt a series of questions to help the banker determine whether to pause or decline the payment.

Westpac has also released new research revealing more than four in ten (43%) Australians don’t know the difference between a scam or fraud – an education gap that has increased by 21 per cent since 20192. Most commonly, Australians are unable to identify romance scams (22%) or suspicious email phishing scams (14%). Over three quarters (77%) of Australians are also concerned about scammers targeting friends and family members, and 76 per cent agree they could do more to better educate themselves against scams.

Westpac data shows that some the most common scams include being tricked into sharing personal details through phone calls, texts or emails from scammers pretending to be a familiar business or government body, as well as dating or romance scams where customers are convinced into sending money or gifts to a prospective companion.

“While we’re taking every step that we can to protect our customers against scammers, Australians must remain vigilant and be mindful of offers that seem suspicious or too good to be true,” Mr Miller said.

“With lots of people spending time in isolation and applying for government support through initiatives like JobKeeper, all against the backdrop of tax time, it’s never been more important to be educated against those looking to take advantage. “Not only for customers to protect themselves, but also those around them who might be more vulnerable like older family members.

“While it can feel embarrassing to talk about, remember you are not alone. The latest ACCC Targeting Scams Report found Australians reported more than 353,000 scams last year with a loss of over $634 million,” added Mr Miller.

In addition to enhanced training across its branch network, over the past 12 months Westpac has also created a full-time Scam Assist team to support scam detection and prevention for customers.

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