Channel Nine TV Host Scammed Out of $35,000 by Scammers Texting Her From OFFICIAL Westpac Phone Number: ‘The Penny Just Dropped’
- A high-profile TV reporter has had $35,000 stolen in an intricate scam
- The scammers texted her from a legitimate Westpac number and took her
- Even the bank was appalled at the level of detail involved in the phone scam.
A high-profile journalist was swindled out of $35,000 by phone scammers posing as her bank while she was in a hospital emergency room with her son.
The scammers sent Sydney-based Nine Network presenter Jess Ridley, 33, a message from an official phone number linked to Westpac bank last Friday.
The text warned the TV reporter, whose son had broken his arm, that there had been a suspicious transaction on her account.
Over the phone, the scammer claimed to be an employee of Westpac’s fraud team. He quoted a reference number and used other basic verification methods to give the scam an air of validity.
Ms Ridley went through a bogus series of official-looking steps to make her account “more secure” over the weekend, before realizing on Monday that she had been the victim of a detailed scam and her pockets were $35,000 less.
Reporter Jess Ridley (pictured) said the scam could catch anyone if even a journalist couldn’t figure out the details.
HOW THE AFTER-TEXT SCAM WORKED
While Ms. Ridley waited at the hospital to try to call the main Westpac phone line, the scammers offered to call her later so she wouldn’t have to call the real Westpac line.
‘Owen Clancy from the fraud department’ gave him a reference number to make it sound more official.
The scammer told Ms. Ridley over the phone that to make her money safer, he would give her a new account, with a different account number and BSB.
Over the course of the weekend, the scammer walked her through the steps of transferring $35,000 to “her” new account.
Instead, the scammers took the money. Ms Ridley was told that her money had likely been moved into an untraceable cryptocurrency.
Ms. Ridley said that when she couldn’t see the money she had allegedly transferred to her own account, she called the scammer’s number and got in touch with a legitimate Westpac employee.
“On Monday morning, I called Westpac at the same number (that the scammers had used) and mentioned my case number,” he told Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
Initially I just got silence on the other end of the line and this person just said we don’t know anything about this and the penny just dropped.
Ms Ridley said she thought as a journalist she had checks and balances but was still conditioned to believe she was talking to the fraud department.
“It can happen to anyone,” he said.
“That’s why I thought it was worth talking about because there seems to be a lot of this going on.”
The scammers appeared to be using caller ID spoofing or overstamp technology, where a fraud syndicate uses a legitimate business phone number to deceive consumers.
Mrs. Ridley didn’t think to question the scammer’s first text message.
Ms. Ridley had previously received legitimate authorized messages from the same Westpac number, so she did not suspect that she might be at the end of a covert scam.
Fordham said, “Google that number and I’ve done it… it shows up as Westpac, I’d assume you’re talking to Westpac.”
Ms. Ridley appears on the Today Show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham that her experience was worth speaking about as the scam spreads.
Ms Ridley said that she had initially been relieved, thinking that the initial fraudulent transaction was being dealt with properly.
“You’re thinking ‘Oh, great Westpac is right into this,'” he said.
Mrs. Ridley attempted to call Westpac in response to the message, but hung up while waiting on the line.
She says the scammers took advantage of the fact that her attention was divided between the fraud on her account and her son in the hospital.
Westpac refunded Ms. Ridley’s money and started an internal investigation into how the scam works.
“I think my fault was that I had a two-year-old with a broken arm in an emergency room.
“It really hurts when you look at that and say I’m a small business owner and this guy has kept calling me on the same number while I’m sitting in triage with my son.”
The journalist admits that she was scammed by a former bank employee.
“Now looking back, I feel like this person would have had to work in one of these Westpac call centers.”
She said the bank was as shocked as she was at the level of detail involved in the scam.
‘They told me they can’t believe the scale of the sophistication.
“It has now triggered an investigation of the scam itself within the bank.”
Westpac covered Mrs. Ridley’s losses in the end.
In a statement, Westpac urged Australians to be on the lookout for scams.
Read Westpac’s full statement to Daily Mail Australia
A Westpac spokeswoman said: “Due to confidentiality obligations, we are unable to comment on individual customer matters.
“However, as a general statement, there has been an increase in reported scam activity, and we encourage all Australians to be vigilant.
“Westpac invests heavily in fraud prevention and has strong processes in place to alert and protect customers. We work hard to recover money from customers whenever possible.
“Customers should be wary of any unexpected calls, texts or emails claiming to be from their bank or other trusted organization, and always stop to consider what they are asking for.
‘If in doubt, ask for a reference number and call back to a public number to confirm if the call was genuine. Your bank will never ask you to click on a link to log in to your bank or make a payment.
‘If you think you may have been scammed, contact your bank immediately. Westpac customers can call 132 032 to seek help or report suspicious activity.