Scam buster saves thousands of pounds

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Scam buster saves thousands of pounds

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

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

'I got all these calls... ve been scammed my computer's got a virus,' Williams said.

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

'' With them, I told 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 : '' I think it's time for us to get rid of it ''.

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

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

'' The president, '' said Millard.

It's dodgy. He often catches the scammers in the act, but sometimes he's too late.

The ABC has reached out to several of Williams' clients, but they declined interviews, saying they felt embarrassed.

Williams said scams were beyond the financial pain of scams.

'' One of my clients... is in her 80s - she was a lovely, lovely person and she was rung up by a scammer,'' he said.

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

I have been to see her three times since, and she's definitely deteriorating.

When the iPhone was announced, Mr Williams started running 'how to' courses to understand that personal technology was transforming so quickly that most people couldn't keep up with it.

Most of his clients are elderly, and they are naturally trusting authority and kind to strangers, even to people who call them out of the blue.

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

He said he stepped into the role of'scam buster' as no-one else was doing it, and now employs another IT specialist, Florian Lindemann, to cope with the growing demand.

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

Mr Williams said branch closures in regional towns were contributing to the growing number of scam victims.

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

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

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

Mr Williams said banks could be doing more to protect their most vulnerable customers.

The focus on cyber security was absent from the Treasury's 2021 regional banking taskforce issues paper, commissioned to identify and assess the impact of bank branch closures in the regions.

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

The majority of the banks cite an overwhelming shift of customer preference for online banking, with most banks reporting more than 90 percent of customers now digital.

Senator Linda White pointed out that digital fraud was on the rise and asked Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn whether banks were making individuals'more susceptible to fraud, particularly the elderly and others less au fait with scams' by pushing customers online.

Comyn said customers were choosing digital banking instead of being forced into it by regional branch closures.

Over the past 6 years, more than 1,200 bank branches have closed in Australia.

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

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

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

'It's a second scam - they'll think it's the banks ringing to fix up the scam,' he said.