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Latest scam attacks your loyalty

Criminals are targeting frequent flyers and other loyalty points programs. Here’s how to protect yourself.

  • Finance
  • Read Time: 5 mins

Telco stops SMS scams

Australian banks have welcomed Optus’ Call Stop, an automated technology it says helps protect its customers from SMS scams. 

The banks say it will help to stamp out “call back” scams where customers call a fraudulent number when prompted by a scam SMS or email. 

The banks say Call Stop shows why Australia needs telcos, digital platforms, and banks to work together “to disrupt – and stamp out – scams”.

Read the announcement from Optus here. 

The National Anti-Scam Centre is warning consumers about a text message scam targeting Qantas Frequent Flyer, Telstra, and Coles loyalty programs’ customers, following 209 reports to Scamwatch in the past four months.

The centre warns that any loyalty program could be vulnerable.

Here’s how it works: 

  • Consumers receive a text message or email stating their loyalty points are expiring.

  • The text or email includes a link to a fake website, which prompts customers to login. Customers may also be prompted to provide credit card details to use loyalty points.
  • Scammers not only steal customers’ points, but they also obtain login details and personal information to commit identity fraud on other platforms.

To protect yourself:

  • Never click on a link included in a text message. 

  • Access the app or website independently to check on the status of your points.  

The National Anti-Scam Centre has contacted the companies that have been impersonated by scammers and is working with web host providers to have the fake websites taken down, to minimise harm to the community. 

This three-point plan is a good way to avoid scams: 

  • Stop. Take your time before providing any personal information.

  • Think. Ask yourself if the message could be fake.

  • Protect. Act if something feels wrong. Contact the company referenced in the loyalty program message and report scams to Scamwatch

Fight against scammers

The National Anti-Scam Centre is being supported and informed by a new Advisory Board, which recently held its inaugural meeting. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says the board will enable the government to work with key industry sectors and consumer organisations to identify emerging scam and fraud issues and work together to combat them. 

Representatives of the banking sector and consumer organisations are on the board. 

However, the Consumer Action Law Centre says many Australian scam victims, including retirees, will never see a cent of their looted savings again.

It quotes an Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) report which found the major banks reimbursed only 2-5% of their customers losses, last financial year.

Acting Consumer Action CEO Tania Clarke described this as an “uneven playing field” – where customers of ANZ, Commonwealth, Westpac and NAB carry 96% of scam losses, meaning that the banks themselves “have little skin in the game when it comes to stopping scams”.

Ms Clarke said this is not the case in the UK, where legislation requires banks to reimburse their customers for scam losses.

“This comes off the success of a four-year voluntary code, which the major banks signed up to and saw the 10 biggest banks reimburse 66% of losses,” she said.

“From next year, all UK banks will have to reimburse customers who have been scammed, except in cases of gross negligence or complicity.”

Despite claims that the UK model will make Britons a soft target for scammers, Ms Clarke said “the figures for UK and Australian losses prove this wrong”.

She said she wanted our banks to be financially liable for scam losses so they are “incentivised to mobilise all the many tools at their disposal and to invest in the technologies needed to stop scams from happening in the first place”.

Related reading: Scamwatch, ABA, ACCC 

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