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Customer-owned banks warn of flood scams

Financial scammers begin to prey on “distressed individuals”, as the widespread devastation from the floods across NSW and Queensland leaves thousands vulnerable.

The Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) is urging flood-impacted Australians to keep “look out” for financial scammers, as its members record an increasing number of flood-related scammers leveraging interruptions to telecommunications and preying on affected residents. 

As the clean-up efforts begin across eastern parts of Australia, following widespread devastation caused by the February and March 2022 floods, many residents will be seeking assistance from support services that is a prime time for scammers, director of services and financial crimes for COBA, Leanne Vale warned.

Ms Vale said scammers 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 explained.


“The insurance activity that will take place now and over the coming months is also a rich environment for scammers, who will 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

Ms Vale said scammers may appear as financial services employees, government assistance, insurers, or fundraisers.

“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,” Ms Vale said.

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.

“It’s important to remember that banks or insurers will never proactively phone or send text messages to initiate financial assistance.”

[Related: Customer-owned banks cooperate to provide flood support]

Customer-owned banks warn of flood scams

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