At the Australian Financial Review’s Banking Summit this week, the Hon Stephen Jones MP described scams as “more than a menace — they are a destructive force in our economy … which, left unconfronted, will undermine confidence in the way modern commerce is conducted.”

“As the technology improves and develops, scam techniques develop right alongside it,” said Mr Jones, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, in his keynote address.

In another keynote following Mr Jones’s, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), cited startling figures about the impact of scams in Australia:

“During 2022, financial losses reported to ACCC Scamwatch totalled more than $569 million and we know only 13 percent of victims report to Scamwatch,” she said. “Our Targeting Scams report, which will be published soon, is sadly expected to report much higher losses than the $1.8 billion reported in 2021.”

CommBank CEO Matt Comyn said tackling scams is a “really important priority” for the bank in a later conversation with AFR columnist James Thomson.

“We're trying to make sure that, as technology is increasing the speed of everything, how do we make sure we can put sufficient controls and protections in place to protect customers,” Mr Comyn said.

“There is a little bit of a balance to be struck in terms of… making something a little bit faster, versus making sure customers are better protected.”

He described listening to interactions with customers who have been scammed out of substantial amounts of money as “absolutely harrowing”.

“We see [scams] absolutely as a whole-of-sector, whole-of-ecosystem [problem],” he said — citing CommBank’s new partnership with Telstra to protect customers from phone scams, which he and Telstra CEO Vicki Brady announced the day before the Banking Summit.

“I think there's lots of ways that we can work across the tech sector,” he said. “A number of things need to change to improve customer protections.”

Mr Comyn later spoke about the “huge engagement” with CommBank Safe, the campaign that helps customers recognise and prevent scam attempts, and about the high number of different types of scam.

“By far the largest in terms of dollar loss are investment scams… these are, in many cases, [run by] sophisticated criminal enterprises,” Mr Comyn said, also calling attention to romance scams, remote access scams, and phishing scams.

“A lot of those get originated outside of the banking sector — often in tech platforms, often an email, often in social media,” he said. “But [Commonwealth Bank has] a really important role to play as well. And so I think, end-to-end [solutions] absolutely should be our focus.”

Banner image: James Thomson and Matt Comyn at the Australian Financial Review Banking Summit (Photographer: Peter Rae)

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