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Bank Refunds Depositor's Life Savings After Scam

That's probably a headline you never expected to read, but it really happened.

Victor and Alex Shaw
Victor and his father Alex | Credit: Victor Shaw

78-year-old Alex Shaw was recently diagnosed with dementia, something that wasn’t a big surprise to his son Victor, an Anglican church rector. The news came just a few days after he had gone in with Alex to their local branch of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and were told that Alex had been the victim of a scam, and that almost half a million Australian dollars (US$300,000) had been pilfered from his father's account.

"I found out that he lost pretty much most of his life savings," Victor said.

Victor knew that scam victims rarely get reimbursed by banks who, theoretically, have a responsibility to protect depositors against fraudulent withdrawals. Of more than half-a-billion dollars lost through scams at Australia's big four banks in 2021-22, only $21 million was paid back in reimbursements or compensation, says ABC News.

So, if the Shaws were to have any hope of recovering the money, they would have to discover whether or not the withdrawals were something that the bank should have prevented.

Fortunately, Alex took meticulous notes while on the phone with the scammers. In the notes there were references to something called 'AnyDesk', which Victor later learned was a program that allowed scammers to remotely access devices. From that moment on Alex was compromised, and several lump sums of between $10k and $25k were lifted from his account.

Victor said ANZ's fraud detection system then suspended his dad's account due to the suspicious transactions. But the account was later reactivated, and the scam transactions continued over a couple of weeks until there was no money left.

Submitting a complaint, Victor didn’t have much hope, and the representatives from ANZ explained that it’s usually impossible to get much money back in these circumstances. Then, three months after his father had lost everything, Victor got a response in the mail.

“Following our review of this matter… ANZ recognizes that it could have done more to support Mr. Shaw... Considering Mr. Shaw’s vulnerability and the impact the scam has had on him, we will reimburse the scam transactions totaling $460,174.04.”

Victor told ABC that not a single person he knows has ever heard of such a thing happening.

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