Stopping Scams: a National Effort

26 March, 2024

I'll follow on from the member for Hunter and say that there have been two scams on my phone today. You had 'Michael Jackson'; I had the 'port authority' or whatever it was telling me I hadn't paid my bill! The point is that the member for Hunter was very right and very clear when he said that the government has spent $86 million, planned over a number of years, to organise this operation. It's beginning to work, but it's not just government's responsibility. It's the responsibility of the individual, the telcos, the banks and anybody else who can do anything we possibly can as a nation, a people and a tribe—tribe Australia. It's your money, your money and your money. One fellow I read about here, after my staff did the research, was about to transfer $25 million. He is an executive—a CEO of an organisation. He was about to transfer, but he made a phone call to his own bank just before he transferred. They said, 'It's a scam.'

My own family member was building a house, and there was a due payment to be made. It a considerable amount of money for the new house they were building, and it was to go to the builder. My brother-in-law was lucky. He knew the builder, who was a friend of his. He knew the daughter was away at the time. When he received the email, which was correct—the money and bank account were correct—it just had a different bank account to be paid into. He said: 'I'll pay it. No, no; I'll give George a ring.' So he gave George a ring. Sure enough, George said: 'No, I haven't changed my bank accounts. They're exactly the same as they were before.' My brother-in-law said, 'This is a definite change to another account.' He would have transferred a substantial amount of money to an organisation; it would have been gone, out of that account, in minutes.

Another lady was insistent after a phone call. She was an older lady. She went through every one of her bank accounts and got all the money out, because that's what she'd been instructed to do. She took it to the Commonwealth Bank to bank it into this particular account. The Commonwealth Bank saved her. They said, 'This is a scam account you're paying into.' Embarrassed, she went back and put all her money back into the other accounts, even though the staff at the other banks had said: 'Are you being scammed? Are you being scammed? Are you being scammed?'

Too many people are being scammed. These people are smart. And they find ways—whatever way they can. They know you well. When I say, 'They know you well,' I mean this. As somebody said, they had the last three digits of their bank card, their name, their wife's name, their children's names and associations they had, and they sounded just like the bank. They will send you documentation that mimics the bank's documentation. You would swear you're actually talking to the organisation that they say they are. I had a Telstra scam, and they had me on the line for 10 minutes before I thought, 'Hang on, why are you asking me these questions about accounts that I don't have?' Then I realised it was a scam. I just thought it was Telstra ringing me, being courteous and looking after me. I was being honoured and favoured. It's great to have them look after you.

I do have proper phone calls from people that say: 'I'm your account manager from such-and-such a bank. You've got some money there; do you want to do something with it?' And it turns out they're legitimate. What we have to do, as a government, is ask, 'Righto, how can we best protect our people?' and actually put the work in. But it's not just about what the government can do, and it can't just be about the banks repaying everything that's lost, because then Australia would just become honeypot for them. They'd know that the banks would repay it, so they'd say, 'Let's get into Australia!' No, we have to be better than; we are better than that. We cannot afford to have $3,000 million taken out of our economy each year. It's money owned by decent individuals—smart, bright people. We can't do that! It has to change and it has to be a whole-of-government, whole-of-banks, whole-of-telcos and whole-of-everybody-else-involved-in-it thing to make the difference. This is our chance now to get onto these people, to make the difference and to make Australia a no-go zone for scammers.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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