Page updated July 4, 2022

Choice Magazine: Scams targeting multicultural communities on the rise

April 30, 2022

Advocates call for boost in anti-scam measures to protect Australians in diverse communities.

By: Jarni Blakkarly

Need to know
Scam losses in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are up by 60%
Experts say diverse communities may be less likely to report scams due to a culture-related sense of shame
Advocates are calling on banks to do more to combat scams and protect victims

Living on a disability support pension, it took Gewa (not her real name) years to save up $4000, which she planned to spend to travel back to her home country of Myanmar to see her elderly mother one last time.

Gewa’s plans to travel were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when a friend in the Burmese community told her about an investment opportunity last year, she thought she could grow her savings while she waited for borders to reopen.

Gewa, who is in her 60s and lives in Melbourne’s western suburbs, fell for what turned out to be an investment scam. She lost all her savings after she got a friend to help her transfer the money. Her other friends in the Burmese community also fell prey and lost thousands.

I lost everything I had, I was feeling very depressed and it hit me very hard

Gewa, a Melbourne resident originally from Myanmar, who was scammed

“I lost everything I had, I was feeling very depressed and it hit me very hard,” she tells CHOICE, through a Burmese translator.

Gewa’s bank initially refused to refund her the money she lost. But after some pressure from the WEstjustice community legal centre, which included escalating a complaint to the Australia Financial Complaints Authority, the bank eventually came around.

Banks’ responses inconsistent

Joseph Nunweek, the legal director at WEstjustice’s economic justice program, says the response from banks varies greatly when it comes to reimbursing people who’ve been scammed.

“Gewa is one of the lucky ones,” he says. “Some banks have been willing to consider the unique hardship and risk exposure circumstances that customers like Gewa face, others have just endlessly kicked the can or not been responsive.

“It’s a pity that we don’t have consistent approaches across the industry and that people have to hope they chose the right bank for when something goes wrong.”


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