7 Nov 2023

Westpac NZ is integrating biometrics software into its fraud monitoring systems to help protect its customers from falling victim to scams.

Westpac is the first New Zealand bank to partner with Biocatch, a global cybersecurity company that analyses customers’ online behaviour to help detect unusual activities that may indicate they’ve been compromised.

Biocatch gathers information on a user’s typical physical and cognitive behaviour through dozens of data points based on their actions, such as their typing speed or how hard they press on touch screens.

Westpac NZ Chief Executive Catherine McGrath says fraud and scams are one of the biggest risks facing the bank and its customers, and the information Biocatch collects will help the bank’s fraud monitoring systems to detect and prevent scammers accessing and draining customers’ accounts.

“For example, if a customer is tricked into divulging their login details or giving remote access to a scammer, the new technology will help us identify that and block attempts to take over their account,” Ms McGrath says.

“We turned on Biocatch in early September and it’s currently collecting behavioural data to help it learn how each individual customer behaves online.  We hope to have it fully operational by the end of the month.

“The technology essentially provides a frictionless extra layer of security for customers. The data is fully anonymised, so Biocatch doesn’t know the identity or details of the people it’s helping protect.”

Ms McGrath says the bank has prevented tens of millions of dollars of customer losses in the past year, but fraud and scams keep getting more sophisticated and harder to spot.

“There’s no silver bullet to stopping scammers but we’re putting a huge amount of focus into keeping customers safe, both through adopting new technologies and increasing the capabilities of our financial crime teams. 

“We’re also pleased to be collaborating with other banks through the New Zealand Banking Association. This includes working towards a ‘confirmation of payee’ account name checking service and establishing a national Anti-Scam Centre.

“However, customers are the first line of defence against scammers, and we’ve stepped up our efforts to provide useful information and education through regular customer communications and social media campaigns.

“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.”

Westpac regularly updates its website to inform customers of emerging threats and scams.


Editor’s note: Westpac NZ tips for staying safe online:

  • Beware of requests for your personal details or money;
  • Never click on links in unsolicited emails or text messages;
  • Report and delete suspicious messages or emails;
  • Keep passwords and security codes secure;
  • Never give a stranger remote access to your device;
  • Keep operating systems and apps up to date on all devices.