A Sydney man says a surprise plan to take his parents overseas has been dashed after he was duped out of $50,000 in a cruel scam.
HSBC Australia customer Gerald Chin told 7NEWS.com.au his nightmare started when he received what he thought was an innocuous text from his bank asking him to call them on the evening of November 29.
The message set off no alarm bells because it appeared in the same thread as legitimate messages the 41-year-old had received previously.
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During the call, Chin was asked to provide his username and personal details for verification before being informed that a device in Perth had logged into his account, but that attempts to transfer $49,000 of his money had been picked up by their fraud team and blocked.
It was then suggested that he lock his account and he was asked to provide the scammer pretending to be a HSBC worker with bank codes from his phone.
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The scammer, who had an English accent and called himself Adrian, mentioned an email regarding the earlier incident would be sent to him.
“I did not suspect anything was amiss as the email did not mention any transactions nor did I receive notifications that funds were being transferred out from my account,” he said.
“The scammer later concluded the call by telling me they will get back to me once they have finished their investigation.”
Chin believed the threat had been quashed but the scammer called the following day, again asking for bank codes.
Realising something was wrong, he immediately called the HSBC helpline — but by then his account had been pillaged.
Gerald Chin’s plans to take his parents on an overseas holiday have been dashed after he was scammed close to $50,000. Credit: Gerald ChinThe scam message, the second in the above screenshot, set off no alarm bells because it appeared in the same thread as legitimate texts Gerald Chin had received from his bank. Credit: Gerald Chin
“I’m devastated and gutted realising I have been scammed as it took a long time to save up that money and the financial stress has kicked in now knowing that I will be struggling to make payments for my mortgage and bills,” he said.
“I have also been traumatised by the whole incident and unable to work and sleep properly knowing that my personal information is now with the scammers.
“As I was planning to take my aged parents overseas to the United States as a Christmas present to see my brother, it’s now a heart-wrenching situation knowing that I won’t be able to afford this, and I’m not sure what to tell them now as I do not want my parents to worry about me.
“I am also not sure whether I will have another opportunity as this whole incident has set me back for a few years.”
Chin now has an agonising wait while his case is subject to a fraud investigation which could take weeks to complete and he has not received assurances the money will be recovered.
“What infuriated me was that there weren’t any transaction notifications sent to my mobile or email which could have prompted me to act quicker, considering it’s a fairly large amount of money,” he said.
“The transaction was also to a new account number and there weren’t any pending holds for such a large amount.”
The customer claimed HSBC, where he has banked for six years, had “deflected” blame and responsibility when it pointed out to him that other banks had been affected and telcos had also suffered data breaches in recent months.
“I felt there hasn’t been much seriousness and responsiveness taken by HSBC to introduce safeguards to their system and provide transparency about the recurring scam issues,” he said.
A HSBC customer says the bank should have done more to block scam transactions from his account. (stock image) Credit: Frank Augstein/AP
Chin is not the only HSBC customer to lose close to $50,000 in November, with a Melbourne couple left devastated after they were reportedly swindled out of their house deposit.
HSBC would not speak about the Sydney man’s case specifically, pointing to privacy, but said it takes customer security “very seriously”.
“We thoroughly investigate any reported cases of scam or fraud,” a spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.
“We advise customers to ignore any requests for their confidential information such as PINs, log-in passwords or verification codes through phone calls, emails or SMS messages.”
Australians have been rorted $11 million in bank impersonation scams this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Gerald Chin is nervously waiting to see if his bank can recover the money lost to a scam, and says financial institutions need more safeguards to protect customers. Credit: Gerald Chin
Scamwatch reports show victims are most heavily targeted via text message (49,572 reports), phone calls (10,565 reports) and online (2,904 reports).
Data from banks showed $600 million in stolen money was returned to customers in the past 12 months, and Chin is sweating on his own hard-earned cash finding its way back into his account.
“I wish to spread more awareness to people as this involves a lot of money that people have worked hard for,” he said.
“I believe there have been a lot of cases happening, but they were underreported due to embarrassment or wish for privacy.”
‘War on scams’
Australian banks came together last month to launch an accord that was described by Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh as a “war on scams”.
A new confirmation of payee system and beefed up measures to detect fraud are two major changes in the pipeline.
“As scammers work hard to devise new ways to steal money, it’s critical that governments, industry and consumers remain vigilant to make Australia a hard target for scammers,” Customer Owned Banking Association chief executive Mike Lawrence said.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones said the Federal Government is also working with telecommunications giants to block scam text messages before they ping your phone.
Scamwatch warns that money or personal information should never be shared with anyone you are uncertain about, with fraudsters often pretending to be from organisations you “know and trust”.
“Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it,” the agency said.
“Scammers take advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories that convince you to give them your money or personal details.
“Always stop, think and check before you act. Scammers rely on you not spotting these warning signs because you’re in a hurry.”