Beware this new breed of bank impersonation scams

Bank impersonation scams have reached new heights, according to a report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It is warning Australians to be extra vigilant when interacting with a bank via phone text and voice messages.

Scammers have been impersonating banks through texts and emails for some time, but they have now reached a new level of sophistication. Text messages sent by scammers now appear to be coming from a legitimate bank phone number.

More worryingly, some scam text messages even appear as part of what began as a legitimate text thread that originated from the actual bank.

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said: “We are incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams because they can be so convincing, they are very hard to detect.”

Last year, the ACCC’s Scamwatch service received 14,603 reports of bank impersonation scams, resulting in a staggering total of more than $20 million in losses. They accounted for about 12 per cent of the total losses to phone and text scams in 2022.

The total figure of over $169 million lost represented a significant increase on the previous year’s numbers. The average loss per victim was $22,000.

Avoiding bank impersonation scams

What can you do to avoid becoming a victim of a bank impersonation scam? There are arguments that big banks need to do more when it comes to prevention but, even if they do, the possibility of scammers remaining one step ahead technologically looms large.

The ACCC recommends you follow a three-step ‘Stop, Think, Protect’ process, which it describes as follows:

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

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.

A commonsense approach is still advisable. Think twice when receiving any communications purporting to be from your bank and, if in doubt, contact your bank either in person or using its official phone numbers. Never call a number sent via text.

“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,” Ms Lowe said.

“If you receive an SMS with a telephone number to call, do not use it. Instead, call your bank direct on a number you have sourced yourself. Likewise, hang up if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank requesting you to transfer money to ‘keep it safe’. Ask for a reference number and call your bank back using contact details you have found independently.”

Following this advice should drastically reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a bank impersonation scam.

Ms Lowe detailed the case of a man who lost $38,000 after receiving a scam text message about a suspicious transaction. “The scam text appeared in the same conversation thread as legitimate messages from his bank,” she says. “He called the number in the text and was put through to a member of the bank’s fraud team. Unfortunately, it was an elaborate scam and he lost everything.”

Another victim lost more than $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.

Such stories can make those of us with very little sitting in our bank accounts almost glad to be in that situation!

Nevertheless, bank impersonation scams won’t be disappearing any time soon and becoming a victim, even if only a small amount is involved, is likely to be highly stressful. The next time you receive as text from what appears to be your bank, take extra care.

Have you received texts or calls from what turned out to be a scammer? How did you handle the situation? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Aged care advocates push for wealthy to pay more

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. It would be a lot easier to stop these text scams if governments and telcos took more tight control of the spoofing of phone numbers. Surely there is little good reason to allow spoofing, stop it and half the scams become much easier to detect.

    • I suspect there is no technology at the moment which will prevent number spoofing.

      And don’t forget that almost all these scam calls come from overseas, beyond the reach of our laws. Try telling the Indian government to clamp down on the masses of spam call centres and see where that gets you. They aren’t interested. Nor are the Indian police due to the high level of bribery.

      I just do not answer any calls from unknown numbers and delete all text messages from unknown people immediately. My answering machine message specifically says due to high number of Indian scam calls, I do not answer calls from unknown numbers. So far it seems to have lessened the number of calls I get now.

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