- About this Annual Review
- Year at a glance
- Acknowledgement of country
- Board Chair message
- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman message
- Organisational overview
- AFCA Independent Review
- Who complained to AFCA?
- Overview of complaints
- Open cases
- Closed cases
- Banking and finance complaints
- Buy now pay later
- Financial difficulty complaints
- Small business complaints
- General insurance complaints
- Significant events
- Life insurance complaints
- Superannuation complaints
- Investments and advice complaints
- Complaints lodged by consumer advocates and financial counsellors
- Legacy complaints
- Complaints outside AFCA’s Rules
- Systemic issues
- Code compliance and monitoring
- Previous schemes
- Engagement, awareness and accessibility
- Corporate information
- AFCA General Purpose Financial Report 2021–22
- Appendix 1
AFCA is concerned about the ever-increasing number and nature of scam complaints.
In 2021–22, AFCA received 4,131 scam complaints, an average of around 340 a month, which is up 28% on the previous year.
Since 1 July 2021, we have closed 4,057 scam complaints. The outcome of those scam complaints has seen $15,292,650 paid by financial firms.
It’s not just the volume of complaints involving scams that is increasing, but also the sums involved. We are seeing scams resulting in losses over a million dollars and often beyond our jurisdictional limit.
The main scam types continue to be investment scams and remote access. We are seeing more scammers obtaining remote access to mobile devices and greater use of SMS.
We have seen increasing use of crypto platforms where the scammer directs the customer to open an account (often on a legitimate platform) and either gains access to the funds in the customer’s wallet or directs the customer to pay a scammer. We also see scams where the scam is the investment on a crypto platform that is not legitimate.
AFCA can only consider complaints about the conduct of financial firms that are our members, and in accordance with our Rules. We are able to consider the conduct of the financial firm in facilitating the transactions between the consumer and the scammer. However, we do not consider the scammer’s actions.
Often there is little chance of recovery of funds when considering complaints about facilitating scams. AFCA applies the law, any relevant codes and good industry practice in force at the time of the complaint. We also have regard to, but are not bound by, past decisions.
The new ePayments Code has issued and clarified what a mistaken payment is and an unauthorised transaction and we are in the process of preparing the AFCA Scams Approach.
Given the impact of scams, we are pleased to see the increased steps financial firms are taking to detect and prevent scams. We also think providing information on websites, through online banking and by public advertisements about different types of scams and what to avoid, is extremely helpful.
In an environment where scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, industry needs to work with regulators to combat scams and educate the community. Sharing information and data about how scams work is useful in the fight to combat scams. We consider the changes that came into effect on 1 July to be positive. These changes require mobile providers to identify, trace and block text message scams, share information about scam messages with other providers and report scams to the authorities.
We believe that financial firms should be required to match account names, as well as Bank State Branch (BSB) and account numbers, as we feel this additional check would significantly reduce certain types of scams and provide much greater consumer protection.
We understand a number of the cryptocurrency platforms are not regulated and do not need to be AFCA members. However, we support those who want to raise the reputation of the industry by becoming AFCA members and offering external dispute resolution to their customers.
The AFCA Scams Approach will cover mistaken internet payments and unauthorised transactions. We plan to have a draft available for public consultation by the end of 2022 and to release the approach in early 2023. We understand there may be legislative changes in this area; however, we feel it is important to record our current approach.
AFCA is proactively engaged with industry, consumer groups and the regulators so that we understand the types of scams consumers are exposed to and the activities by industry and regulators to reduce scam transactions.
AFCA has more information for consumers at www.afca.org.au/scams.
The complainant was purchasing a property. Ahead of settlement, she received an email from her lawyer giving her the law firm’s trust account details, so the complainant could deposit the balance of the purchase price. The complainant attended a bank branch and completed a transfer form to transfer $750,000 into the law firm’s trust account. The complainant’s instruction to the bank included the account name, BSB and account number. When the bank completed the transfer, it relied solely on the BSB and account number.
It has since become apparent that the lawyer’s email had been compromised and the funds were transferred into a third-party fraudster’s account, and not an account in the name of the law firm. The bank was able to recover $250,000 from the fraudster’s account.
Findings and outcome
AFCA found the complainant’s instructions to the bank included an account name, BSB and account number. However, because the bank’s payment system relies only on BSB and account numbers, it was not possible for it to comply with all elements of the instruction. The bank could only disregard the account name when processing the transfer if it first gave the complainant a clear and proximate warning that it would rely only on the BSB and account number and disregard the account name.
The transfer form completed by the complainant when she attended the bank branch did not contain a clear and proximate warning. The bank, therefore, acted in breach of the complainant’s instructions and paid away its own funds and was required to reimburse the $500,000 not recovered from the fraudster’s account.
Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.