Tweed resident Jess James (left) in Venice.
Tweed resident Jess James (left) in Venice.

Phishing bait taken

IMAGINE being stranded overseas without a cent to your name and realising you had been the victim of an internet banking scam.

That's what happened to Pottsville woman Jessamyn James, whose dream vacation quickly turned into a nightmare.

Ms James is not the first to fall victim to scam or “phishing” emails falsely claiming to be from the Commonwealth Bank.

About a week into a European vacation, Ms James, 22, began to receive the fraudulent emails claiming to be from her bank.

They told her that, due to “irregular account activity” she needed to verify her card details.

“I ignored the emails for a while, because my card was working,” Ms James, a Tweed Daily News worker, said.

“But then my card stopped working at ATMs, so the next time I was online I had a closer look at these same emails that kept piling into my inbox and my junk mail.

“I read through it and it seemed fully legit, saying that if I just verified my details that I could keep using my account.

“They said it was a safety precaution and if I didn't do it by a certain date they would close my account.”

Ms James tentatively entered her details, but the next time she went to use her bank card she was told she had insufficient funds.

Checking her account balance online, she was horrified to find she had been robbed of more than $4000.

“I'm such an idiot,” she said, adding that the realisation of what had happened had left her in tears.

The Commonwealth Bank's website warns people of the scams, and stresses that the bank does not request personal details online.

“The Commonwealth Bank does not contact customers via email seeking personal information,” said Retail Banking Service group executive Ross McEwan.

“Hundreds of recipients of these emails have been contacting the bank seeking clarification about their validity, which illustrates many Australians are suspicious about receiving emails from financial institutions seeking personal information.”

The email phishing scams include requests for people to participate in surveys, update account details, activate cards, win prizes and money, qualify for fee refunds or unlock frozen accounts.

“The fact is that these emails look authentic and include Commonwealth Bank logos, refer to actual bank staff members or include believable email addresses,” Mr McEwan said. “While many people delete these emails, some may be unsuspecting victims of these scams.

“We recommend people remain alert and delete any email that claims to be from the Commonwealth Bank seeking personal information.

“If consumers receive an email highlighting a problem with an account or offer that is unusual or too good to be true, then it is most likely a phishing scam.”

Scam alert

Be wary of:

  • Emails requesting private information
  • Promise of prizes, rewards or fee refunds
  • Survey participation requests
  • Poor grammar and punctuation
  • Embedded web links or email address 'click throughs'

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