Barry Casey was defrauded of $40,000, half of his retirement savings, by scammers posing as Amazon Prime in May 2022.
The 69-year-old Sydney man, who suffers from “three forms of cancer” and was saving the money to treat possible future cancer flare-ups, said the looming healthcare costs and his decimated bank balance were “like a cloud over my head at the moment”.
Casey also said he had “blind faith” that his bank, with which he had been with for 64 years, would protect him from fraudulent transactions, but when he contacted them the day after the account was cut, he was told it was his own fault.
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He was in the Philippines when he received a message thanking him for registering an Amazon Prime account and informing him that $99.99 would be deducted from his bank account in two weeks. He received these messages daily and counted down.
But Casey became ill and came home with a “spasmodic cough” that made it impossible to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Then, sleepless and fever-addled, he called the number provided by scammers who claimed it was for the Amazon fraud team, with whom Casey was able to cancel his account.
“It’s coming from your Commonwealth Bank account,” the fraudster told Casey before giving his bank account number.
“The alarm bells were ringing, but I was feeling very unwell, I couldn’t think very clearly.”
The fraudster pretended to be a member of Amazon’s fraud team and worked with Casey under the pretense of “catching” the person using his banking information and requesting personal information from him.
“(The scammer) said, ‘Look, this happens quite often, and here at Amazon we need to protect our brand.’
The language used by the fraudsters was particularly convincing. When 7NEWS.com.au contacted the real Amazon about the scam, a spokesperson said: “Scammers attempting to impersonate Amazon are putting our customers and our brand at risk.”
Casey tried to back down several times, but said, “The scare tactics worked.”
Each time he was persuaded to move on, saying they had identified the scammer, who was in Sacramento, California, and telling Casey, “If we don’t stop him, he’s just going to keep taking money out of your account.”
“In the back of my mind, I trust the bank. I think they won’t allow that. If it is a fraud, the bank will detect it. I had blind trust in the bank – unfounded, as it turned out.”
The Amazon impersonators began pushing Casey between different operators until he said, “It was just a blur of screens, information given and received.”
He didn’t know it, but Casey had given them access to his devices and accounts.
They told him not to open his bank account until their investigation was complete, and when a prompt for the NetBank verification code appeared on his phone and the fraudsters asked him to fill it out, he did just that.
It was the moment their manipulation tactics overcame the Commonwealth Bank’s final security measure. One that Casey is still annoyed about.
He fell asleep and woke up shortly afterwards in a panic.
“I was laying in bed sleeping in the early hours of the morning and I just had this moment of clarity. “You know that feeling when you have a fever and then you lose consciousness?” Casey said.
“I just had this moment where the fog cleared and I thought, ‘No, this isn’t right’.”
He checked his bank account and found that three transactions had been debited from his account; one for $4,000 and one for $16,000 just before midnight and one for $20,000 just after midnight.
What is a remote access scam?
The ACCC said the remote access scams, just like the one Barry experienced, defrauded Australians of $7.2 million in the six months to July 2021.
Between 2020 and 2021, 801 reports of remote access fraud by hackers impersonating Amazon alone caused losses of over $1.2 million.
“Often referred to as remote access scams, scammers claim to be from well-known organizations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co., Amazon, banks, government organisations, the police and computer and IT support organisations.” ACCC said.
“You create a sense of urgency when you give them access to your computer through remote access software.
“Scams of this type often involve an unexpected call saying that you have been charged for a purchase you did not make, your device has been compromised, or your account has been hacked.
“The scammer will pretend to help you or ask you to help them catch the scammer. They will tell you to download remote control software like AnyDesk or TeamViewer.
“Once the fraudster has gained control of your computer or device, you will be asked to log in to applications such as email, internet banking or PayPal accounts, which will allow the fraudster to access your banking and personal information to pose as To spend them or steal his money.” ”
“I’m not normally like that.”
Casey has been a Commonwealth Bank customer since he started school, and school bank representatives visited his school with piggy banks and passbooks – but banking has become almost unrecognizable since then
“I have been a Commonwealth Bank customer since 1969, since I was five years old,” he said.
“The two home loans I got were through the Commonwealth Bank. Everything I did, I did through the Commonwealth Bank.”
Loyal as they may be, Casey said he had “blind faith” that his bank would protect him from scams targeting his account and rushed into the Rockdale branch to report the matter as soon as it opened , and filed a police report shortly afterwards.
“It wasn’t until within 24 hours that the bank contacted me and basically said, ‘It’s your fault’.”
“I just switched off immediately. I scolded myself for it and thought you deserved it because you were so stupid.
“The fraud, the illness and the trust I had in the bank all combined to prevent me from being fully involved. I blame myself.
“It was like an out-of-body experience because I’m not normally like that, I’m usually pretty cynical about everything.”
Casey, who built his $1,000 bank balance in the 15 years after his divorce, said, “When I had that $80,000 in my bank, that was the first time I felt comfortable.”
“It feels like I’m constantly keeping my head just above quicksand.”
When the Commonwealth Bank closed its two local branches, Beaconsfield and Arncliffe, he was convinced to switch to electronic banking.
But Casey has taken to doing everything personally, and he’s not the only one.
Aaron Bugal, a spokesperson for cybersecurity company Sophos, told 7NEWS.com.au: “My mother still goes to the bank branch to do all her banking because she just doesn’t trust the online presence or herself on the internet.”
“Her best friend was robbed of $90,000 – she was lucky, she got the money back after waiting about six and a half months. It was a terrible time for her and she is in her 90s.”
“Far too well known”: expert says
A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au: “CBA is aware of the impact fraud has on customers and the wider community.”
“We encourage customers to remain cautious and stop, check and refuse. Be careful when clicking on links, especially if the message is from an unknown sender or if you allow third parties to access your devices remotely.”
“Customers should never share sensitive banking information, including login details, passwords or one-time codes, with anyone.
Bugal agreed that the bank is already taking measures to protect customers’ funds, but said more could be done.
“The bank has done a lot without interfering too much with normal business operations. It’s a bit of a delicate balance for them, but I think they can help raise cultural awareness, especially among older people,” he said.
“The big problem with what happened to Barry is that it’s all too familiar.”
An Amazon spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au: “Although these scams occur outside of our store, we will continue to invest in protecting our customers and educating the public about fraud prevention.”
“Amazon will never ask for credit card information to verify identity before assisting with a customer service issue, will never ask for payment by telephone or email, will never ask customers to purchase a gift card for any service, or will download or install software.”
A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au it is already developing new fraud detection, prevention and awareness initiatives.
But Bugal said the bank could do more “when it comes to covering the costs of those defrauded,” pointing out Banks in the UK have a mandate to “do better” in this area.and that similar measures could be taken in Australia.
“I can absolutely see this being implemented in Australia because it costs older people their pensions and puts many of them at a disadvantage.”