Gavin Keesing lost almost $400,000 in an investment scam, and now says he has run out of options to try to recover any of it.
He says, when his marriage broke up, he was left with his boat and a sum of money, which he decided to invest.
But the broker he met, via Facebook, was not legitimate. “He was smooth as velvet, an absolute expert. It went on for probably six months and ended up with a figure of $400,000.”
Over a period of months between August 2019 and April 2020, he transferred $378,000 to a range of accounts.
Gavin remembers sending four small amounts to a Hungarian bank when the man was supposedly in Europe. Worried, he rang a teller he knew at his local branch and asked where the money was going. He says she told him that the recipient would not provide a name.
“I thought ‘this is off’ and rang the broker and said ‘I’m out, I’m finished’. Probably two or three or four days later he rang back and said ‘look I understand your position. What I’ll do is open an account in New Zealand and the money won’t even leave New Zealand. That looked okay to me, I thought I’d give it a go.”
He transferred four larger amounts to an ANZ bank account in the name of Aurora Trading.
But when he realised that he had been scammed, there was little that he could do. He says Westpac was not able to refund the money.
For its part, Westpac said in communication to him that it could only have attempted a chargeback on payments made through the credit card network, and only within a set timeframe.
He also paid $15,000 to a recovery service that offered to help him get the money back and was contacted by someone claiming to represent a law firm wanting to help him take legal action – for a fee.
He went to the police but was unable to achieve any outcome.
Gavin says he's stuck and has no idea where to turn next. “What the hell do I do? I’m getting no support anywhere.”
He feels let down by his bank.
“They were given the opportunity to protect a innocent member of their community, but chose to assist the scammers by not exposing the money laundering.”
He complained to the Banking Ombudsman but the scheme can only handle complaints that deal with direct financial loss under $350,000, although the government has been considering changes to this limit.
A police spokesperson says police have investigated a report of fraud from Gavin. But due to a lack of evidence provided, police have no lines of inquiry to progress and the case was filed in December 2021.
“We acknowledge the financial distress falling victim to one of these scams can cause. Should any new information be provided to police, we are open to reassessing the matter.”
Westpac says it empathises with Gavin and has worked constructively with him through the experience.
“In 2019 and 2020 our staff intervened on several occasions to caution him against making payments to suspected scammers. This included asking detailed questions about payments he was planning to make, warning him that it may be a scam, educating him on common scams, sharing resources with information on how to spot and avoid scams, and encouraging him to seek advice from the Financial Markets Authority before making any future investment decisions.
“Despite this contact, Mr Keesing completed the payments through online banking and regularly assured us they were legitimate. We believe our staff were thorough and empathetic in their efforts to prevent him from being scammed, and worked with him to recover a small portion of the funds once he’d alerted us that he’d been scammed.
“Since becoming aware, we have also subsequently returned an additional $42,530.38 to Mr Keesing, after our Fraud Prevention team took action to prevent an additional transaction from being processed.
“Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and hard to spot. We encourage people to remain vigilant, question anything that doesn’t seem right, and contact their bank immediately if they believe they’ve been caught up in a scam.”