Bank Teller Turned Hero After Saving Customer From Losing Millions To Online Scam Just By Asking A Few Questions

Charlie Boy Criscola

In a recent incident, an Australian bank representative from Westpac Bank intervened to save an unsuspecting woman from falling victim to a devastating internet scam.

Westpac’s rigorous training for its employees to scrutinize unusual transactions paid off when the teller, Mariana Karbowski, sensed something amiss and decided to take action.

Ben Young, Westpac’s Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Insights, emphasizes the significance of person-to-person interaction in the banking industry, particularly in light of widespread branch closures.

Karbowski’s encounter at the Liverpool Branch with a nervous woman in her 70s, who intended to sell her home and cancel her home insurance, raised red flags. When questioned, the woman cited a vague reason – needed to “help her son.”

Diving deeper into the situation, Karbowski discovered the real motive behind the woman’s decision – to free her boyfriend from an overseas prison.

Karbowski told Channel 9 News, “My next question was, please tell me the last time he took you out for a coffee, and she said, ‘Actually, never, we met online.’”

Alarmed by this revelation, Karbowski, who had personal experience with family members falling victim to scams, decided to investigate even further.

A reverse image search revealed that the photos the woman received from her supposed internet boyfriend were online with different identities.

“We cried together and I walked her to the police station to report it,” she said, “We care and when we see those red flags, we act.”

The incident highlights the pervasive issue of internet scamming and fraud, which siphons off billions worldwide. Young aims to harness Karbowski’s insights for a new security feature on Westpac’s online banking platform, powered by AI that will ask the type of questions that you would ask a loved one if they told you: “I’m about to send $50,000 to some foreign corner of the world.” If the AI detects potential fraud, it will block the transaction and alert the fraud department.

While some may view this intervention as intrusive, it’s a necessary safeguard against scammers who often target vulnerable individuals, such as those with dementia, living alone, or lacking internet literacy. The case also draws attention to the responsibility of banks in protecting their clients from such threats.

Perhaps Westpac took note of ANZ Bank’s recent decision to reimburse an elderly client’s life savings, totaling AUD$500,000, which were stolen by scammers. The client, who suffers from early-stage dementia, was a victim of fraud that could have been prevented with more robust security measures from the bank.

The incident serves as a wake-up call for the banking industry to prioritize customer protection and employ innovative solutions to combat fraud. Westpac’s proactive approach in leveraging AI technology to enhance security demonstrates its commitment to safeguard customers’ financial well-being.

By combining human intuition with technological advancements, banks can better protect their clients from falling prey to sophisticated scams and financial exploitation.

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