A Melbourne bride-to-be has lost all her wedding savings in a matter of seconds after falling victim to a phone banking scam.
Stephanie Hoggan was over the moon after her partner Matty, 30, finally popped the question in May 2022, and she had been saving for the wedding of her dreams ever since.
Scoring her first job while still in high school, the 30-year-old from Melbourne has always been a hard worker and knows the importance of being smart with money.
But after a worrying text message popped up in her phone one morning, the insurance worker lost all her savings in a matter of seconds.
“It was a really stressful day at work, and I was super busy,” Stephanie told news.com.au.
“I was totally not paying attention to anything else, besides what I was doing in the moment.
“I got this text message that said it was from NAB. It stated that I’d authorised $900 to be paid to this person, but if it wasn’t me than to let them know.
“It had a number to call, so of course I called it as I was freaking out. I didn’t want to lose that money.”
Stephanie said the scammer called her at ‘the worst time’ as she was incredibly busy at work. Picture: Supplied
Stephanie and her partner Matty were heartbroken at the huge loss. Picture: Supplied
She said she was on the phone to the person claiming to be an NAB worker for at least 20 minutes.
At the time, Stephanie said there was nothing out of the ordinary that made her question what she was doing.
The man on the line had a British accent, perfect English, sounded professional, remained calm and was very helpful – which was totally the opposite of what she believed a “typical scammer” might sound like.
It was not until hours later, when she got home and had some time alone with her thoughts, that she began to question what she had done.
“When I thought about it again, I just realised, that doesn’t sound right,” she recalled.
“I called NAB to explain what happened. They said ‘yep, the money is gone. We can see it was transferred to a Commbank account’.
“Basically there was nothing they could do, because I’d already transferred it.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that all that money could be gone so quickly.
“I thought there would be a hold or something. I’d never transferred into any Commonwealth account before.”
Have you had a similar experience? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie was instructed to send the amounts in three different transactions while on the phone. Picture: Supplied
When looking back, Stephanie said there was one thing that could have been a clue that it was a scam.
“Usually when you call NAB, they say ‘welcome to NAB’. But on the phone number they asked me to call, the hold line said ‘welcome to National Australia Bank’.
“Such a small thing, most people would not even think twice.”
Despite the loss, the couple’s wedding is still going ahead as planned in November this year.
Stephanie said that thankfully, the pair still have some savings behind them after recently selling an investment property.
She is now sharing her story in the hopes it will help others not fall victim to the same scam.
Stephanie also hopes that NAB can begin to implement stricter measures to prevent scams like this one, such as a mandatory hold on new transactions to unfamiliar bank accounts.
“I’m just thankful I still have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and I’m able to pay my bills and things like that,” she said.
“For some people, they might transfer everything they’ve got. They won’t have anything else to their name.
“I am lucky that I have support around me, and we have some more savings behind us. This could have been so much worse.”
The engaged couple thankfully still had some savings put away. Picture: Supplied
She had been saving for her upcoming wedding. Picture: Supplied
Stephanie contacted NAB who looked into the case.
She told news.com.au that there was nothing the bank could do after the fact, as they money was already gone.
However, as a gesture of goodwill, NAB gave Stephanie $10,000 in compensation for what occurred.
“I am very grateful to have been given this compensation,” she added.
“I just hope nobody else has to go through this.”
NAB told news.com.au that they recognise the growing issue and say they have recently implemented new measures to help stop this from occurring.
They added that customers need to be vigilant as the criminals behind these scams are becoming more sophisticated as time goes on.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in scams in recent years and we know the results can be devastating on the people they impact, both emotionally and financially,”
said NAB Executive, Group Investigations and Fraud, Chris Sheehan.
“We conduct a thorough investigation into each case and our team makes every effort to help recover money for customers who have been scammed.
“Unfortunately, once the funds have left an account and are sent to another bank, in this case the Commonwealth Bank, it is extremely hard for us to retrieve them.
“These criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and operate with speed to move stolen funds.
NAB says these type of scams are becoming increasingly common. Picture: David Geraghty
“Helping Australians avoid scams and question unusual activity around their finances is key to preventing situations like the one this customer has experienced.
“Scams impersonating NAB and other recognised brands continue to rise. This isn’t just a problem for banks and telcos, this is an issue for every public and private organisation to reduce the impact these scams are having on Australians.
“We recently announced new measures to stop criminals infiltrating bank phone numbers by placing NAB’s bank phone numbers on the ‘Do Not Originate’ list to help reduce scam calls impersonating NAB numbers. We’ve also added additional protections to reduce scam messages appearing in legitimate bank text message threads.
“These changes we’ve made recently have led to a big reduction in spoofing cases and customer losses and made it harder for the criminals behind the scams but customers need to remain vigilant.
“Although we prevented more than $110m in scam losses for our customers last year, too many people are still falling victim and losing large amounts of money. That’s why we will continue to work hard to find more ways to protect our customer.”
While a spokesperson for Commonwealth Bank stated that they could not comment on individual cases, they urged customers to remain vigilant.
If a phone call, email or texts seems unusual, do not engage. Real banks will not put a person under pressure to act instantly.
The next step is to call or visit a CBA branch to check the validity of the correspondence.
In any case, if a customer is unsure, the best thing to do is to hang up on the caller, delete the email, block their number and change your passwords.