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Couple lose their entire $100,000 life savings in text message scam

Poppy Bilderbeck

Published 
| Last updated 

Couple lose their entire $100,000 life savings in text message scam

Featured Image Credit: 7News

A young couple has spoken out after getting scammed of their entire life savings.

Text message scams have been on the rise and it's easier said than done to argue you'll never fall victim to one.

Scammers can go to great lengths to target their victims, such as when a criminal posed as multiple companies over several days to con James Green and Sarah Gerendarsi out of a whopping $100,000 AUD (£56,000).

The Melbourne couple have since opened up about the horrifying ordeal.

A couple from Melbourne have been scammed of their entire life savings. Credit: 7News
A couple from Melbourne have been scammed of their entire life savings. Credit: 7News

The scam first began when Green got a text from who he believed was Uber.

The 27-year-old said the text asked him to update his credit card details by clicking on a link.

After doing so, Green received another text message an hour-and-a-half later.

The second text appeared to be from banking corporation Westpac, seemingly alerting Green someone had accessed his account and was trying to transfer $5,500 AUD (£3,000) out of it.

The scam was carried out across two text messages and a phone call. Credit: 7News
The scam was carried out across two text messages and a phone call. Credit: 7News

The text - which appeared to be from a legitimate number associated with the banking association - told Green to call Westpac's security team, giving him the number on which to do so.

However, little did Green know, but the number he would call wouldn't actually put him through to an official member of Westpac's staff.

Upon calling the number, Green found himself on the phone to someone with 'a British accent' who was 'very well-spoken' and who 'seemed like a trustworthy person,' he told 7News.

Green recalled being advised to create a new bank account and transfer his savings into it in three instalments to keep it safe.

Green believed he was speaking to an official member of Westpac's team. Credit: 7News
Green believed he was speaking to an official member of Westpac's team. Credit: 7News

Four days later, the 27-year-old realised nearly $100,000 was completely gone and that he hadn't been on the phone to a genuine employee but had instead fallen victim to something known as 'spoofing'.

"Call spoofing is when someone disguises their caller ID information to hide who they really are. Scammers may use call spoofing to commit fraud by impersonating government agencies or companies and requesting money or your personal information," as reported by Experian.

A month after the scam, the couple claim they were contacted by the scammer who asked if they had 'got [their] money back,' the scammer allegedly explaining they were calling for 'moral reasons'.

Green didn't realise he'd fallen victim to a spoof call. Credit: 7News
Green didn't realise he'd fallen victim to a spoof call. Credit: 7News

Green recalled: "I said, 'If you want to be moral you wouldn’t have done this in the first place’."

The money has reportedly since been sent offshore and Green and Gerendasi claim Westpac has denied any responsibility, instead offering to settle the issue with $3,000 (£1,600) - an offer the couple say they have to decide whether or not to accept by Monday, 23 January.

In the UK the government introduced Confirmation of Payee in 2020 - a service that matches the recipient's account number with a real person's name. It's something the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is urging the government to implement in Australia.

The scammer posed as someone from Westpac. Credit: KC Hunter/ Alamy Stock Photo
The scammer posed as someone from Westpac. Credit: KC Hunter/ Alamy Stock Photo

The couple have since gone to the police and Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Gerendasi said: "We had all these big plans and they're all just canned for the time being."

And Green resolved: "We'll be doing all we can to try and get some money back to just get some normality back into our lives."

Tyla has contacted Westpac for comment.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111, start a live chat, or visit the website, all of which are available 24 hours seven days a week.

Topics: Money, Australia

Poppy Bilderbeck
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