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An expert in fraud prevention and financial crime is warning Australians to be ultra-vigilant of scams in the wake of widespread flooding.
Times of extreme natural disaster, such as the current flooding crisis in South-East Queensland and northern NSW, often results in an increase in a spike in the number of unsuspecting and vulnerable victims duped by scams, according to Westpac.
The banking giant’s general manager of fraud prevention and financial crime Chris Whittingham has warned individuals and businesses to be vigilant about advantageous and exploitative scammers.
“With the current flood crisis, scammers will try to take advantage of Australian’s generosity and support by setting up fake donations sites,” Mr Whittingham said, “or even posing as insurers, businesses or government organisations offering help to the victims themselves”.
“We are urging people to be on high alert to the possibility of scams and closely check that any websites or charitable organisations are legitimate before sending funds or your personal information.”
In response to the anticipated surge in scam cases, Westpac has released information and guidelines on what to look out for and how to increase protection from scams. According to the organisation, there are two main avenues through which scammers will target their victims.
The first of which is with fake donations websites, where perpetrators pretend to be raising money for the disaster’s victims with fundraisers and donations. The second method is through email and phone scams, where the scammers pose as a familiar business or government organisation and trick victims into sending money and personal information.
Westpac has advised the public that there are four main responses individuals can utilise to mitigate the risks presented by scammers.
The bank advises individuals and businesses to be wary of unsuspecting calls or emails, cautiously considering the purpose of the call and, if there is any doubt about its legitimacy, ask for a reference number and call the said organisation back on a publicly listed number.
Additionally, Westpac has recommended that employing PayID when transferring funds and using careful consideration when actioning email requests, such as not clicking on any payment request links in an email, are two strong preventative actions that can help reduce the risk of scams.
Finally, individuals and businesses are advised to act immediately if they believe they are a victim of a scam. According to the bank, severing communication with the scammer and swiftly contacting their bank greatly increases the likelihood of recovering the funds lost.