Scammers reap $5.2 million from WA businesses left vulnerable during COVID-19

The West Australian,
Hackers are using increasingly sophisticated ploys to target WA businesses.
Hackers are using increasingly sophisticated ploys to target WA businesses. Credit: Unknown/Getty Images

WA businesses have been scammed millions of dollars through increasingly sophisticated ploys this year as hackers capitalise on vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19.

At Bankwest, businesses were the worst affected by online cons, losing almost $5.2 million between January and July. This accounted for just over half the total amount scammed from the bank’s customers this year.

Phoney investments made up the largest number of cases at 475, swindling almost $1.8m from unsuspecting customers.

Bankwest’s chief customer officer Paul Vivian said a growing numbers of cyber criminals were “using investment scams to prey on people’s financial uncertainty” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch yesterday revealed personal information theft had increased 55 per cent this year, totalling $22m in losses.

Cyber security expert Dr Ian Martinus said it was critical for WA small businesses to ensure they had adequate protection against hackers as their operations had become incredibly sophisticated, making it difficult to detect fraudulent activity.

Managing director of regional consultancy AgriStart Natasha Ayers last week received a highly authentic-looking phishing email posing as the admin from an organisation she sits on the board of.

AgriStart managing director Natasha Ayers
AgriStart managing director Natasha Ayers Credit: AgriStart/AgriStart

She was fortunate enough to have good virus protection on her laptop, which detected the threat immediately.

This week is National Scam Awareness Week.