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How to spot a bank impersonation scam

A man with white hair and a white beard on the telephone looking concerned

Scammers are getting more and more convincing every day; thanks to the technology they have access to and the speedy development of AI tools. This is making it harder and harder to spot a scam, especially impersonation scams.

One relatively recent technique that these scammers are using involves impersonating your bank or financial institution by making calls or sending messages from a number that appears to be legitimate. These scams can be difficult to spot, so we’ve put together some pointers for how to identify and guard against them.

What do bank impersonation scams look like?

Just because you receive a text message from your bank and it comes from the ‘regular’ number and lines up in the same chain of messages, doesn’t mean it’s real. If your ‘bank’ asks you to transfer a large sum of money immediately, requests that you send personal data in a reply SMS, or includes a link and asks you to click it, you should immediately be wary. Remember, these are not things that your bank would normally do – they are definitely not things P&N Bank would ask you to do.

Reports to the ACCC’s Scamwatch indicate fraudsters are using new technology to trick their victims, by making phone calls appear to come from the bank’s legitimate phone number (this is known as ‘spoofing’), and the person making the call is very convincing. There have been alarming reports of Australians losing their life savings to highly sophisticated impersonation scams in recent years, and you should always be wary of phone calls and texts that appear to be from your bank or financial institution and other trusted organisations.

Scamwatch received more than 14,000 reports of bank impersonation scams in 2022, resulting in more than $20 million in losses.

How to spot a bank impersonation scam

According to the ACCC, communications from bank impersonation scammers often have a sense of urgency to them. The call or message is usually to do with checking a suspected transaction, authorising a payment, a frozen account or moving money to “keep it safe”.

“It is critical to remember that no matter how legitimate the call or message seems, a bank won’t ask you to urgently transfer funds,” said ACCC Deputy Chair, Catriona Lowe 

Other signs of a bank impersonation scam include:

  • The text message looks different to others in the SMS thread. There could be different wording or phrases used.
  • The SMS contains a suspicious looking link. Never click on any links. If you receive an email containing a link, hover your cursor over it to display the full URL and check if it matches your bank’s.
  • The text message contains a telephone number to call. Always verify your bank’s phone number independently and call it to check the validity of the communication you’ve received.
  • The person calling tells you to transfer money to a different account to help the bank protect your money, or so they can do “further investigations”. Remember, this is not standard procedure for any bank.

What to do if you suspect you are being scammed

If you feel that something is not quite right about the message or phone call, then:

Stop – take your time before giving any money or personal information away.

Think – ask yourself if the message or call could be fake.

Protect – act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank and report scams to Scamwatch.


If you have received an SMS with a telephone number to call, do not use it. Instead, call your bank direct on a number you have sourced yourself. The P&N Bank number is 13 25 77.

Likewise, hang up if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank advising you to move money into a different account. If you think there is the possibility a call could be real, ask for a reference number and then call your bank back using contact details you have found independently. Again, the P&N Bank number is 13 25 77 and our team are always happy to validate any communications you may have received from us.

Remember, never provide your online banking passwords, security codes, pins or tokens to anyone over the phone.

Being aware of these types of scams is a major step toward guarding against them. Remember to follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to protecting yourself and your finances.

 

If you are a P&N Bank customer and believe you have been scammed, please contact us immediately. We will act quickly to attempt recovery of the funds on your behalf, however there is no guarantee that this will be successful, and time is important. Unfortunately, once money has been transferred to a scammer it is extremely difficult to recover – especially if you have authorised the transaction. That's why it's critical you always employ good online security practices and remain scam aware.

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