Local scam buster takes charge

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Local scam buster takes charge

Justin Williams isn't a police officer, and he certainly doesn't work for Interpol, but in Port Fairy, Victoria, he's become the local scam buster.

Mr Williams has helped about 60 local scam victims over the past few years, saving people thousands of dollars.

''M getting all these calls [with people saying], ve been scammed, my computer's got a virus'' Williams said.

Most of the calls come from his clients, who he's been wording up about cyber security over the years.

'' I'm with them,'' he said.

'T trust the person!'ll say, and [if it's a suspect call] I'll make them say,'t trust the person! ' He said : '' What is it like to be in position to speak of someone, '' he said.

His clients now call Mr Williams if they fear their computer may have been infected by malware or when someone calls claiming to be an official and asking for account passwords.

After years of coaching from Mr Williams, Keith and Barb Millard now call him when they spot something alarming.

'' The Minister of Justice, Mr. Millard said.

It's dodgy, of course, but it's a good thing. Often, Williams catches scammers in the act, but sometimes he's too late.

Several of Williams' clients declined interviews, saying they felt embarrassed.

The pain caused by scams outweighs the financial losses, Williams said in a statement.

He said that one of my clients is in her 80s - she was a really happy-go-lucky and a lovely, lovely person and she was rung up by a scammer.

d ruin her life and so on, and she had a heart attack while she was on the phone.

I've been to her three times since and she's definitely deteriorating, he said.

When the first iPhone was announced, Mr Williams started running How To classes, and he realized personal technology was changing so quickly that most people couldn't keep up with it.

While most of his clients are elderly, they are often naturally trusting authority and kindness to strangers, even to people who call them out of the blue.

In such cases, Williams would rush out to the client's home to prevent the inevitable theft, sometimes saying to the scammer himself on speaker to prove to his client the 'nice man' was a fraud.

As nobody else was doing it, he said he stepped into the role of'scam buster' as no one else was doing it, and now employs another IT expert, Florian Lindemann, to cope with the growing demand.

It's a hard one because the crimes are so big, and [for] the local police, it's not in their scope, Williams said.

The growing number of scam victims in regional areas is due to branch closures, Williams said.

In the past four years, residents in Port Fairy have gone from having four banks to just one.

In 2019, the National Australia Bank shut down its Port Fairy branch, and in 2021 the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank followed suit.

Now, there's just the Community Bank Port Fairy and District, part of Bendigo Bank, left.

Banks could be doing more to protect their most vulnerable customers, Williams said.

The cybersecurity problem was not included in the 2021 Regional Banking Taskforce Issues Paper, which was commissioned to identify and assess the impact of bank branch closures in the regions.

Last week, senators in Canberra grilled the biggest four banks as part of a parliamentary inquiry into regional bank closures.

All four banks cited an overwhelming shift in customer preference for online banking, with most banks reporting more than 90 percent of customers now digital.

Senator Linda White reflected on the increasing risk of digital fraud, and asked Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn whether banks were making people'more susceptible to fraud, particularly the elderly and others less au fait with scams' by pushing customers online.

In a statement, Comyn said customers were choosing digital banking rather than being forced into it by regional branch closures.

In the past six years, more than 1,200 bank branches have closed in Australia.

Williams said a lot of his clients had developed a distrust for humanity.

''I ll get scared, afraid of a scam,'' he said.

Williams said that once a person fell for a scam the first time, it eroded their confidence and made them more vulnerable to future attacks.

They'll think it's the bank ringing to fix up the scam, he said.