Jess Ridley, Westpac: Today Show TV presenter reveals how she was scammed out of $35,000
Channel Nine TV presenter scammed out of $35,000 by scammers texting her from OFFICIAL Westpac phone number: ‘The penny just dropped’
- Top TV journalist robbed of $35,000 in complex scam
- The scammers texted her from a legit Westpac number and took her away
- Even the bank was horrified by the level of detail involved in the phone scam
A well-known journalist was cheated out of $35,000 by phone scammers posing as her bank while she was in the emergency room of a hospital with her son.
The scammers last Friday sent Jess Ridley, 33, a Sydney-based Nine Network presenter, a message from an official phone number linked to Westpac bank.
The text warned the television journalist – whose child had broken her arm – that there had been a suspicious transaction on her account.
Over the phone, the scammer then claimed to be an employee of the Westpac 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 fake series of official-sounding steps to make her account ‘safer’ over the weekend – only to realize on Monday that she had been scammed in detail and her pockets were more lightweight $35,000.
Reporter Jess Ridley (pictured) said the scam could catch anyone if even a reporter couldn’t grasp the details
HOW ROUNDING WORKED AFTER TEXT
As Ms Ridley waited in hospital to try to call Westpac’s main phone line, the scammers offered to call her later so she didn’t have to call the real Westpac line.
“Owen Clancy of the fraud department” gave it a reference number to make it more official.
The scammer told Ms Ridley over the phone that, to secure her money, he would give her a new account, with a different account number and BSB.
Over the weekend, the scammer walked her through the steps to transfer $35,000 to “her” new account.
Instead, the scammers took the money. Ms Ridley was told it was likely they had moved her money into an untraceable cryptocurrency.
Ms Ridley said when she couldn’t see the money she had supposedly transferred to her own account, she called the scammer’s number and contacted a legitimate Westpac employee.
“On Monday morning I called Westpac on the same number (the scammers had been using) and quoted my case number,” she told Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
“I just had silence on the other end of the line initially and this person just said we don’t know anything about it – and the penny just dropped.
Ms Ridley said she believed as a journalist she had checks and balances – but was still conditioned to believe she was speaking to the fraud department.
“It could happen to anyone,” she said.
“That’s why I thought it was worth talking about, because it looks like there’s a lot going on.”
The scammers appeared to be using caller ID spoofing or over-stamping technology – where a fraud syndicate uses a company’s legitimate phone number to trick consumers.
Ms 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 had no suspicion that she might be the victim of a secret scam.
Fordham said: “You google this number and I did…it comes up as Westpac, you would assume you are talking to Westpac.”
Ms Ridley appears on the Today show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham it was worth talking about her experience as the scam spreads
Ms Ridley said she was initially relieved, thinking the initial fraudulent transaction was handled correctly.
“You think ‘oh great Westpac is straight on that,'” she said.
Ms 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 focus was split between defrauding her account and her son in hospital.
Westpac refunded Ms Ridley’s money and launched an internal investigation into how the scam worked
“I guess my failure was that I had a two-year-old with a broken arm in an emergency centre.
“It really hurts when you look at this and I’m a small business owner and this guy kept calling me at the same number while I’m sitting in triage with my son.”
The journalist believes that she was defrauded by a former bank employee.
“Now, looking back, I feel like that person should have worked at one of those Westpac call centers.”
She said the bank was as surprised as she was by the level of detail involved in the scam.
“They told me they couldn’t believe the extent of the sophistication.
“Now it has triggered an investigation into the scam itself within the bank.”
Westpac eventually covered Ms Ridley’s losses.
In a statement, Westpac urged Australians to be vigilant of fraudulent activity.
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 issues.
“However, generally there has been an increase in reported scam activity, and we encourage all Australians to be vigilant.
“Westpac invests heavily in scam prevention and has robust processes in place to alert and protect customers. We work hard to recover customers’ money whenever possible.
“Customers should be wary of unexpected calls, texts or emails claiming to be from their bank or another reputable organization, and always stop to think about what they are asking for.
“If in doubt, ask for a reference number and call back a public number to confirm if the call was genuine. Your bank will never ask you to click on a link to connect to your bank or make a payment.
“If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank immediately. Westpac customers can call 132 032 to seek assistance or report suspicious activity.