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CHOICE boss calls on banks ‘to do more’ to fight scams

Consumer watchdog CHOICE has revealed some details from its recent Consumer Pulse survey that suggests Australian consumers are crying out for help to combat scams.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 25 Jul 2023
CHOICE boss calls on banks ‘to do more’ to fight scams
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The survey – which polled over 1,000 consumers – found that 90 per cent of Australians have been targeted by a scam in the last 12 months and that more than 50 per cent of consumers are receiving scam messages on a weekly basis.

Eighty-eight per cent of those surveyed believe that scams targeting Australians are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, which has led to 84 per cent of people now being more cautious when it comes to online banking.

Subsequently, 80 per cent of consumers feel that the government should introduce legislation that puts the onus of fighting scams on the shoulders of businesses, not their customers.

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“The huge increase in money lost to scams shows that Australia has become a significant target for scammers – who often operate as part of sophisticated international criminal syndicates,” said CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland in a statement.

“Many of us are worried about our friends and family members becoming victims of scams,” Kirkland added.

“The overwhelming majority of people in Australia want the government to force businesses to do more to protect people from scams. We welcome the government’s commitment to consult on these issues over the coming months.”

But the issue is about more than government action, Kirkland believes. Businesses need to step up too.

“Companies like banks, telcos and digital platforms like Meta are not doing enough to detect scams and prevent them from reaching people through their systems,” Kirkland said.

“Although there have been some positive steps in the right direction, what we really need are strong, enforceable rules that require businesses to protect people from scams.”

One key regulation supported by 64 per cent of those polled is that banks should be required to reimburse funds lost to scammers.

Kirkland wants banks to “reimburse customers when they fail to stop money being stolen through a scam”.

CHOICE’s findings in regard to what banks can do for their customers come in the wake of ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott rejecting outright such a plan. Elliott was questioned on the matter while fronting the Senate standing committee on economics this month, saying that such regulations would only “socialise” the problem and that more consumer education was the key.

Any regulation requiring banks to cover funds lost to fraud “doesn’t stop the scams”, Kirkland said.

“Scammers will still make the money. And now we’ve socialised the cost of that.”

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