Matthew Sweeney
Matthew Sweeney lost $12,000 in scam after clicking on a link in a message appearing to be from ANZ Twitter / George Davies @GeorgeD69223398

An alarmingly simple scam ensnared a university student, stealing the $12,000 he saved for a student exchange trip to America in just ten minutes.

Matthew Sweeney, a 22-year-old criminology and criminal justice student at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, was working a regular shift at a supplement store in Braeside on Wednesday evening when the incident happened. His routine was disrupted by an unusual pop-up alert flashing on his iPhone.

The pop-up displayed a message purporting to be from ANZ Plus, claiming someone had made an unauthorised $1,900 payment and urging him to click a link to stop it. Matthew clicked the link in a moment of panic.

The link led him to a perfect replica of the ANZ website before the scammer ruthlessly drained his account. After entering his phone number for a one-time password, as the fake ANZ website instructed, Sweeney found himself locked out of his actual ANZ Plus app.

How a Click Cost One Student His Dream Trip

Regaining access to his account after contacting the bank, Sweeney discovered his entire $12,000 savings for his four-month study abroad program had vanished within ten minutes, stolen by the scammer on the other end.

"I get scam messages all the time and it's so obvious when it is a scam but this one was so well done. I'm 22, I'm relatively tech savvy but there's a new wave of scamming coming through, and it wasn't even a scam, it was straight up fraud. The fact (is) that I've now got no money and I leave in two months," Sweeney told Daily Mail Australia.

Matthew had dedicated his first semester this year to working extra hours and saving diligently for his trip. Unfortunately, being occupied with serving customers then, he couldn't devote his full attention to scrutinising the pop-up's demands.

"If anyone gets a pop-up like that, just dismiss it and take your time," he said. His panicked state made it difficult to recall what information he entered, though he suspected it might have included his banking PIN.

He later received an email notification indicating a new, unidentified iPhone had been registered to his bank account. Sweeney reported the incident to ANZ's cybercrime team and completed the necessary forms. He also filed a police report but remained apprehensive about recovering his lost savings, the $12,000 he meticulously saved for his four-month international program.

A Second Chance: When The System Works

In a positive development, Matthew's family launched a GoFundMe campaign to support his exchange trip, garnering AUD 1,918 in donations. "It's a huge relief. I couldn't thank those who donated enough," Sweeney said.

Furthermore, after Daily Mail Australia highlighted the scam, ANZ intervened and reimbursed the stolen funds. The bank deposited the money back into Sweeney's account on Tuesday morning. While Sweeney's story has a rare happy ending, many scam victims are left to bear the financial burden alone.

These scammers target not just individuals but large corporations as well. Recently, Arup, a prominent British engineering firm, became the victim of a sophisticated deepfake video scam. An employee, believing they were in a legitimate video call, unknowingly transferred a staggering HK$200 million (£20 million / $25 million) to criminals.

Adding to the web of scams, Instacart shoppers are now being targeted by a gift card scheme. This ploy exploits not only trusting customers but also unsuspecting delivery personnel.