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Russian Internet con artists scammed an Auckland Westpac banking system
Internet con artists scammed an Auckland Westpac banking customer of $3000 and unsuccessfully targeted four more in New Zealand in the past two weeks. The stolen money was sent electronically to Russia through another local bank account. Westpac declined to identify the victim but spokesman Paul Gregory said the money was reimbursed. Police were told. The theft parallels similar incidents in Australia and comes after an email scam in November that tricked 350 New Zealand Westpac customers into revealing passwords. That was also traced back to Russia. Consumers Institute chief executive David Russell echoed earlier police calls for strengthening internet banking password systems. The Banking Association estimates 2.3 million New Zealanders have access to internet banking, and 1.3 million are likely to have used it in the past month. The scam aims at customers with poor firewall security systems and enters desktop computers through email or web surfing. It deploys "Trojan" key logging software that lurks in a customer's personal computer, collecting passwords and account access numbers and forwarding them over the internet. The crook then logs into the bank account, finds out how much money is available, and uses a built-in payments system to transfer money to a second local bank account. The owner of the second account is employed as a "mule" to forward the money internationally in return for a commission, usually about 5 per cent. Mules might not know they are doing anything illegal. Other big banks report no instances of the scam. Most have daily limits on the amount that can be transferred, or additional security checking for setting up external payments. Mr Gregory said Westpac's no-limit approach would be reviewed but "limiting that facility will have to be weighed up against the inconvenience to those customers who regularly use it". The other four compromised accounts were discovered after a special scan of all Westpac accounts. They have been closed with no money lost. Mr Gregory said people should secure their computers as they did their cars and houses. "This demonstrates the importance of three things for consumers to have up-to-date antivirus protection, the latest browser patches, and really a good firewall," he said. Bank of New Zealand spokesman Owen Gill said it would introduce voluntary daily limits on its payments system this year. The BNZ reviewed daily bill payments looking for suspicious activity, he said.
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