The next stop on IDCARE’s CROC outreach program was the historic town of Bathurst in the central west of NSW. It’s the home of the famous Mt Panorama racetrack and the birthplace of Australia’s 16thPrime Minister, Ben Chifley, who grew up working on the region’s railways before making the jump into politics.
Despite the cold and heavy rain throughout the week, it was great to be warmly welcomed into Bathurst Council chambers to meet with the mayor, Cr. Robert Taylor and Manager of Information Services, Michael O’Neill. Mr O’Neill spoke about the council’s own cybersecurity training which includes sending out fake phishing emails to staff. While most staff, he said, are very aware and don’t take the bait there are still a few that required further training. This technique is one we have seen before at local councils and appears to offer valuable awareness. He was very interested in the work IDCARE does and was keen to digest our literature and send out something bespoke to his staff, particularly those with customer facing roles. The mayor spoke of specific cybersecurity training he and his councillors undertake prior to taking office through the NSW Local Government Association but was still amazed at the extent and complexity of scams discussed during our visit. This included a look at our local data insights generated from our engagements with our Bathurst clients who have experienced scams. As has become a common finding, the highest proportion of those experiencing identity misuse from the region have no idea how their identity was stolen, with criminals taking on average over $10,000 per event.
During our visit to the Bathurst Westpac branch, situated in the historic General and Savings Bank building which dates to 1856, the topic of persuasion tactics for difficult to convince customers was a key discussion point. As it has been at previous Westpac branch visits, several staff including manager Alecia Duffy, made the point that - particularly when faced with dubious money transfer requests or other suspect behaviour – some customers are completely unwilling to listen to the concerns of bank staff. The team recognised the confidence and support they had with their own internal fraud division but were very keen to learn more about the services IDCARE provides.
During a presentation to the Bathurst Probus Club, member Ian told IDCARE of his experience with a Facebook Marketplace scam. He had lost around $9,000 after paying for a caravan sight unseen. After contacting the Westpac branch in Bathurst there was a considerable delay before finally his money was returned. However, Ian was unsure as to why he had been lucky enough to have his money returned. The staff at the Bathurst Westpac branch were able to identify how this case unfolded. The money had been frozen after a complaint was made by Ian but had taken time before the other bank where the money had been sent (CBA) had carried out their own investigation and was able to return the money. This a good reminder to act fast and contact your bank immediately if you suspect a scam in order to have any chance of having your money returned.
An important part of any CROC visit is to reconnect with IDCARE clients who we have assisted in the past. We met with Ross, a retired gardener who had lost his life savings to a cryptocurrency investment scam and then lost his superannuation after the scammers were able to convince him they could help recover his lost funds. The tactics used by the scammers were particularly revolting in this case. Ross’s mother is very ill and the lady who claimed to be able to recover his funds had built a strong rapport with Ross after claiming her own mother was also unwell, and giving Ross some help in looking for respite care options for her. This unbelievable example of malice and cunning exemplifies just how far scammers are willing to go. It underlines more than ever the importance of cyber resilience and emboldens us to continue raising awareness across regional Australia.