Westpac: Scammers feast on cost of living crunch

Digital Reinvention
14/08/2023 News

Westpac is urging Australians to be wary of fraudsters who are taking advantage of current cost of living pressures to rip off unsuspecting victims.

Westpac’s latest data has found those seeking additional income are being targeted by scammers following a 1000% increase in job scams – growing from a handful of cases in 2022 to hundreds reported so far in 2023.

Westpac Head of Fraud, Ben Young, says these scams are costing hard-working Australians millions of dollars.

“We’ve seen a significant spike in reported job scams since the start of the year, which occur when someone is tricked into making a payment or sharing personal information through a fake employment offer.

“Often, scammers will have fraudulently obtained some of your information like your phone number or address, which can make an offer sound legitimate. They also exploit the application process by tricking you into sharing more personal details like your driver’s licence, passport, or tax file numbers.

“Scammers also use fake job offers to trick you into sending money through some kind of upfront payment, such as training or other work-related equipment,” Mr Young said.

According to the Westpac data, Australians aged 31-40 are most likely to be affected by job scams representing one third (32%) of reported cases. This is closely followed by those aged 18-30 (30%).

The report also found women were most likely to be impacted by these scams, accounting for more than half (58%) of all cases.

Westpac is continuing to invest in new scam detection and prevention measures and is now stopping more than 60 per cent of all cases.

Managing Director of Sydney-based IT recruitment agency Better Staff, Therese Kaley, says the rise in job scams coincides with an increase in people applying for new roles.

“The job market is in a state of flux and there is a high demand for talent. We are seeing more people considering a potential move to achieve a higher salary or who are thinking about taking on a second job for additional income, largely due to increasing cost of living pressures.

“Unfortunately, this also means we’re seeing more job scams, particularly through messaging apps like WhatsApp, where scammers target candidates and trick them into sending money to secure a role. This is commonly under the guise of multi-level marketing opportunities that promise high returns, only if the victim first purchases products to test and review.

“It’s also incredibly concerning to find scammers posing as employers to obtain personal information. While it’s common to provide certain details in a job application, a legitimate Australian employer will never ask for things like your bank account details without a formal job offer.

“When researching any new job opportunities, always check if a business website or recruitment officer is legitimate, and be cautious if you’re asked to make a payment as part of the application process. A recruitment agency would never request funds from a candidate,” Ms Kaley said.

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