Channel Nine TV presenter is conned out of $35,000 by scammers texting her from Westpac’s OFFICIAL phone number: ‘The penny just dropped’

  • A high-profile TV reporter has been robbed of $35,000 in an intricate scam
  • Scammers texted her from a legitimate Westpac number and led her along
  • Even the bank was horrified at the level of detail involved in the phone scam 

A high-profile journalist has been swindled out of $35,000 by phone scammers posing as her bank while she was in a hospital emergency room with her son.

Scammers sent Sydney-based Nine Network presenter Jess Ridley, 33, a message from an official phone number linked to Westpac bank on last Friday.

The text warned the TV reporter – whose child had broken her arm – that there had been a suspicious transaction in her account.

Over the phone, the scammer then claimed to be an employee in the Westpac Fraud Team. He cited a reference number and used other basic verification methods to give the con an air of validity.  

Ms Ridley was taken through a fake series of official-sounding steps to make her account ‘safer’ over the weekend – before she realised on Monday that she was the victim of a detailed scam and her pockets were $35,000 lighter.

Reporter Jess Ridley (pictured) said the scam could catch out anyone if even a journalist couldn’t pick up on the details


While Ms Ridley was waiting in the hospital to try calling Westpac’s main phoneline, the scammers offered to call her later so she didn’t have to ring the real Westpac line.

‘Owen Clancy from the fraud department’ gave her a reference number to make it sound more official. 

The scammer told Ms Ridley over the phone, that in order to make her money safer, he would give her a new account, with a different account number and BSB.

Over the course of the weekend the scammer walked her through the steps to move $35,000 into ‘her’ new account.

Instead the scammers took the money. Ms Ridley was told it was likely they’d moved her money to untraceable cryptocurrency. 


Ms Ridley said when she couldn’t see the money she’d supposedly transferred her own account she rang the scammer’s number and got through to a legitimate Westpac employee. 

‘On Monday morning, I called Westpac on the same number (as the scammers had used) and quoted my case number,’ she told Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

‘I just got silence on the other end of the line initially and this person just said we don’t know anything about this – and the penny just dropped.

Ms Ridley said she thought that, as a journalist, she had checks and balances – but was still conditioned to believe she was speaking to the fraud department.

‘It could happen to anyone,’ she said. 

‘That’s why I thought it was worth speaking out about it because it does sound like there’s a lot of this happening.’

The scammers appeared to be using caller ID spoofing or over-stamping technology – where a fraud syndicate uses the legitimate phone number of a business to cheat consumers.

Ms Ridley didn’t think to question the scammer’s first text message.

Ms Ridley had previously received legitimate authorised messages from the same Westpac number, so she didn’t suspect she might be on the end of a covert scam.

Fordham said: ‘You google that number and I’ve done it…it comes up as Westpac, you’d presume you’re talking to Westpac.’ 

Ms Ridley appears on the Today show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham it was worthwhile to speak out about her experience as the scam spreads

Ms Ridley appears on the Today show (pictured) as a reporter and told Ben Fordham it was worthwhile to speak out about her experience as the scam spreads

Ms Ridley said she had been relieved initially, thinking the initial fraudulent transaction was being dealt with properly.

‘You’re thinking ‘oh great Westpac is straight onto this’,’ she said.

Ms Ridley attempted to call Westpac in response the message but hung up while waiting on the line.

She says scammers had taken advantage of the fact her attention was divided between the fraud in her account and her son in hospital.

Westpac refunded Ms Ridley's money and began an internal investigation into how the scam works

Westpac refunded Ms Ridley’s money and began an internal investigation into how the scam works

‘I guess my failure was I had a two year old with a snapped arm in an emergency centre.

‘It really hurts when you look at that and go I’m a small business owner and this guy has continued to call me on the same number while I’m, sitting in triage with my son.’

The journalist reckons she was conned by a former employee of the bank. 

‘Now looking back at it, I feel like this person would have had to work in one of these Westpac call centres.’

She said the bank were as surprised as she was at the level of detail involved in the scam. 

‘They said to me they cannot believe the scale of the sophistication. 

‘Now it’s triggered an investigation of the scam itself within the bank.’

Westpac covered Ms Ridley’s losses in the end.

In a statement, Westpac urged Australians to be vigilant about scam activity.

Read the full statement from Westpac to Daily Mail Australia

A Westpac spokeswoman said: ‘Due to confidentiality obligations we are unable to comment on individual customer matters. 

‘However as a general statement, there has been a rise in reported scam activity, and we encourage all Australians to be vigilant.

‘Westpac invests heavily in scam prevention and has robust processes in place to alert and protect customers. We work hard to recover money for customers where possible.

‘Customers should be wary of any unexpected calls, text messages or emails claiming to be from their bank or other reputable organisation, and always stop to consider what they are asking for. 

‘If in doubt, ask for a reference number, and call back on a publicly listed number to confirm if the call was genuine. Your bank will never ask you to click a link to log into your banking or make a payment.

‘If you think you may have been scammed, contact your bank immediately. Westpac customers can call 132 032 to seek assistance or report suspicious activity.’



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