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How woman saved from losing millions

Five Hundred Dollars Australian
A bank teller has saved a woman from losing millions to an online scammer. Picture: Supplied

A bank teller at one of the big four banks has saved a customer from being scammed out of millions by an “overseas boyfriend”.

Westpac team member Marlena Karbowski said alarm bells went off when a woman walked into the Liverpool branch, in Sydney’s southwest, saying she needed to sell her home to help her son.

“I asked, ‘Why are you selling’? She was a little bit nervous, she said, ‘I have to sell, I have to help my son’,” Ms Karbowski told Nine.

Westpac bank teller Marlena Karbowski. Picture Nine.JPG
Westpac bank teller Marlena Karbowski has been praised for stopping a massive scam. Picture: Nine

After asking a few more questions, she uncovered the woman had an “overseas boyfriend” who was stuck in jail and had asked for money to bail him out.

Ms Karbowski asked if she could speak with the woman in the privacy of her office, where she sensitively extracted more information from the customer.

“My next question was, please tell me the last time he took you out for a coffee, and she said, ‘Actually, never, we met online’,” Ms Karbowski said.

SaferPay is a Westpac technology. Picture Nine.JPG
SaferPay is a Westpac technology to stop scammers in their tracks. Picture: Nine

Eventually, the scam began to unravel, with Ms Karbowski using Google reverse image search to show the customer that the scammer’s profile was composed of various photos he had stolen from other people’s social media accounts.

She supported the woman through the emotional discovery before escorting her to the police station to report the crime.

Westpac has recently launched SaferPay, which uses artificial intelligence to identify “high-risk” transactions and is able to stop a customer from sending money to a suspected scammer.

It asks customers questions and prompts them to take a moment to consider whether they should proceed with the transaction.

If the customer still wishes to complete the transfer, but the app deems it a security risk, the technology can block the transaction.

Customers will then receive a phone call from the bank to discuss the matter.

Australians lost $82.1m to scams in the final quarter of 2023, Scamwatch reports.