Dec 15, 2023

Older woman’s nest egg seconds away from being snatched in sophisticated scam

The older woman (not pictured) was convinced to lie to bank staff to withdraw $10,000. [Source: Shutterstock]

Another older person has had her nest egg of $10,000 saved by bank staff after recognising she was being scammed and confronting the criminal on the phone.

Earlier this month, a regular NAB customer in her 80s visited the Maryborough branch in regional Victoria, requesting to withdraw $10,000 in cash and telling staff it was to pay her adult children back for a holiday.

Finding the woman’s request unusual, Customer Service Adviser Penny Hyde and Branch Manager Emily Grogan asked her some more questions before declining to go ahead with the transaction.

“The first red flag was the customer’s unusual visit to the branch and the second was the story about repaying her adult children for a family holiday – it just didn’t stack up,” Ms Grogan explained.

After the woman placed her handbag on the branch counter, Ms Hyde and Ms Grogan suspected someone was listening to their conversation.

“I asked the customer, ‘Has somebody asked you to come in here today?’ and the customer pointed to her handbag. The scammers were dialled in on the customer’s phone which was hidden in the handbag. They had been listening in the whole time.”

Asking for her phone, NAB employees could see that the call was still active and began speaking to the scammer. Ms Hyde asked who she was speaking to and frightened the scammer who hung up the call.

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NAB Maryborough branch employees Penny Hyde and Emily Grogan. [Source: NAB]

The sequence of events leading up to the visit was reminiscent of many other scam attempts like South Australian Renmark residents Patricia and Jim, both in their 80s, who were called by a scammer pretending to work for NAB bank. The couple were dangerously close to withdrawing their savings of $10,000 and sending it to the fraudsters.

In the instance of the Maryborough woman, the criminal had called her earlier in the day pretending to be from a ‘scam-watch’ group when he convinced her that she had already been scammed. He told her she could recover the money and help catch the ‘criminal’ if she attended her local branch. She was convinced not to trust branch staff and lie if she was questioned about withdrawing $10,000 of her own money and depositing it into an account at another bank – an account that belonged to the scammers.

Going as far as calling a taxi for her, the scammer organised for the customer to be collected from her home and driven to the branch where he demanded to be dialled into the conversation with bank staff.

After staff confronted the scammer and had a chat with the woman about the phishing scam she was involved in, she realised she had been conned but luckily her $10,000 was still safe.

However, that didn’t stop the criminals from contacting the woman two more times to try to catch her out again.

“It was like a lightbulb moment where she realised what had happened and then she got very upset and shaky. She felt betrayed and wanted to know how dare they do that to her,” Ms Grogan said.

“Now she knows the type of questions a bank will ask you over the phone and the type of conversation they’ll have with her. She knows what a scam is and to be cautious.”

While this NAB customer was lucky, not all scams end up this way. They don’t all share the same characteristics, they are often very sophisticated and can be harder to identify. 

“Scammers will try anything to steal your money and the wrong split-second decision can have devastating financial and emotional consequences,” Ms Grogan said.

“If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank immediately.”

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