Tags: Money & finances Personal safety Standard of living

“Cyber security is a collective effort, and the more informed and prepared we are, the better we can protect ourselves.”—Mona Meighan, Head of Financial Crime, Australian Unity Bank

Key points

  • The impact of online scams extends beyond financial losses, affecting the emotional wellbeing of victims and those closest to them.

  • We provide practical advice and support for our customers, and are continually developing new strategies and tools to better prevent, detect, and respond to evolving cyber threats and scams.

  • Engaging in open conversations with family and friends helps raise awareness about scams and fosters a collective approach to staying secure in the digital age.

Have you noticed you’ve been getting more emails, texts and calls from scammers pretending to be from a legitimate business? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Australian Government’s Scamwatch Australians lost $77 million to scams last year.

Years of rapid digital transformation and advancing technology, particularly in the field of generative AI, have made malicious attacks more frequent and harder to spot, says John Ooi, Australian Unity’s Chief Information Security Officer.

“Hackers now have really sophisticated attack methods,” he emphasises. “It’s professionally crafted using AI and very hard to detect.”

Sadly, for victims of online theft and fraud, the consequences can go beyond financial loss, potentially affecting their mental and emotional health, and even their relationships—all of which can impact on their wellbeing.

We’re committed to supporting our customers’ wellbeing—which, in turn, means keeping your data and money secure. To do so, we’re constantly developing new skills and strategies to prevent, detect and respond to cyber threats and scams

Read on to find out how we are working to protect your finances and privacy, and for expert tips for on staying safe online.

We’ve got your back

Unfortunately, there’s no question that cybercrime is on the rise in Australia. So at Australian Unity, we’re constantly re-evaluating our approach to cyber security, and looking to strengthen our defences and minimise our vulnerability to attacks.

Mona Meighan, Head of Financial Crime at Australian Unity Bank, describes it as a “constant race to stay one step ahead” for Australian Unity Bank’s 24/7 fraud detection and specialist financial crime teams.

Mona shares a couple of recent examples of these teams in action. When an elderly customer alerted Australian Unity Bank to an investment and remote access scam, the receiving institutions were promptly notified, facilitating the partial recovery of her funds. Although she did lose some money, the majority—a total of $51,358—was successfully traced and returned to her.

“To expedite fraud recovery requests between institutions, we are signing up to the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) Fraudulent Reporting Exchange (FRX),” explains Mona.

“The tricks these people are using are increasingly clever and sophisticated, which means anyone can fall victim to a scam.”

—Mona Meighan, Head of Financial Crime,
Australian Unity Bank

In another case, a customer enquiry led contact centre staff to suspect that he was in the early stages of a romance scam, as he was sending money to someone he had never met in person. By gently educating and supporting the customer, the team was able to alert him to the scam and are working to recover his money.

“We are very happy that we were able to educate the customer before he lost more funds to the scammer, and that he’ll now be better protected from these types of scams in the future,” says Mona.

This quick thinking by our contact centre team is the result of what John describes as a major staff awareness program to create a “security-minded workforce” and culture.

He also adds that, as a proactive security measure, Australian Unity “subscribes to a service that enables us to tap into the dark web to look for any accounts that have been stolen and traded”. This allows us to notify customers, who may be unaware that their private health insurance or bank accounts have been compromised, that they may be at risk of fraud. 

The impact of online theft and fraud on wellbeing

While cyber attacks primarily target a person’s financial assets, the repercussions can extend much further, and Mona emphasises the severe emotional toll that scams, identity theft and fraud can take.

“For victims, the financial impact can be substantial, but it doesn’t stop there,” she says. “Many victims experience a great deal of shame, which can really affect their mental and emotional wellbeing, and may even make them hesitant to seek help or report the attack.

“Additionally, where the financial loss is significant, the impact can ripple out to close family members, including the children, parners and parents of the victim, which can intensify their feelings of guilt and shame.”

With cybercrime and scams escalating, it’s important for victims to understand that they are not at fault, Mona adds, pointing out that “the tricks these people are using are increasingly clever and sophisticated, which means anyone can fall victim to a scam.”

Practical tips to help you stay safe online

Cyber threats may be relentless, but vigilance, knowledge and the right strategies can help you safeguard your privacy and finances.

John reiterates the top three tips from the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Security Awareness Month:

  1. Update your devices regularly.
  2. Turn on multi-factor authentication.
  3. Back up your important files.

And Mona adds that keeping up to date with the latest scams is critical, referencing ScamWatch as an invaluable resource in this regard.

She also highlights the importance of reporting scams, and of having regular conversations with friends and family about cyber risks. Talking about scams helps contribute to the ongoing community effort against cybercriminals and helps remove the stigma of falling for a scam.

“By having open discussions, we can build awareness and be there for friends and family who may become victims to scams,” says Mona. “Cyber security is a collective effort, and the more informed and prepared we are, the better we can protect ourselves.”



Information provided in this article is of a general nature. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.