He Lost Life Savings to Scam. The Bank Stepped Up

Australia's ANZ recognized 78-year-old Alex Shaw, who has dementia, had been taken for $300K
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2023 1:48 PM CDT
Bank Makes Good on $300K Stolen From Dementia Sufferer
People walk past an ANZ branch in Sydney on Feb. 18, 2011.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

An elderly man from Down Under who was scammed out of his life savings has received a reprieve, in a tale described by the Good News Network as "a story of corporate responsibility in the face of personal tragedy." ABC Australia notes that although scam victims in the island nation are rarely reimbursed by the country's biggest four banks—just $13 million out of more than $300 million in scams was recouped by victims in 2021-22—ANZ made an exception for 78-year-old Alex Shaw, who was diagnosed with dementia soon after his son discovered he'd lost about $300,000 to fraudsters.

Victor Shaw says he first found out about what had happened when he was at an ANZ branch earlier this year with his father. "Your dad has been the victim of a scam," he says a bank representative told him. Victor says Alex, who could handle most daily tasks that didn't involve money "kind of fine," had been victimized by lower-level scams before, but Victor hadn't known about this massive one. Alex Shaw, however, was what the Daily Mail refers to as a "habitual note-taker," who despite his dementia had made copious scribblings during his interactions with the scammers. Among his notes: details of instructions he'd received to purchase Apple gift cards, then reveal the cards' numbers to a caller in Thailand.

There were also directives to click on bogus links, commands to transfer funds into crypto accounts, and references to something called "AnyDesk." Victor later found out that was a software used by scammers to remotely spy on others' devices—and the main way he believes his dad's account was ultimately drained. The bank had at one point flagged Alex's account for suspicious transactions, but the scammers apparently "coached" Alex on how to remove those blocks. Victor wasn't hopeful ANZ would address his formal complaint about what had transpired, but three months after his father's bank account was cleaned out, he received a surprising letter.

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"ANZ recognizes that it could have done more to support Mr. Shaw given his history with scams," the note read, per ABC, adding the bank would reimburse the elder Shaw for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he'd lost. "The ways in which cybercriminals are scamming and defrauding customers is constantly evolving," says a rep from the bank. "ANZ is continually reviewing and adjusting our capabilities to keep customers safe." Victor, meanwhile, now has power of attorney over his father's affairs. He says he's normally reticent about talking about financial matters—"as Australians, we don't like to talk about money"—but that he's sharing what happened to his dad to warn other families, especially those who have a loved one with dementia. (More uplifting news stories.)

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