Sri Lankan bank teller saves woman losing $2000 to ‘cunning’ romance scam

Dilan Pathirannahalage

Dilan Pathirannahalage. (Photo:

A bank teller from Sri Lanka, working at the Melbourne branch of National Australia Bank,saved a woman who he said was “blinded by her love” from losing thousands of dollars to a “cunning” scammer.

The woman went into the National Australia Bank to transfer the money to a person overseas who she said was her boyfriend.

But the employee, NAB Customer Advisor Dilan Pathirannahalage, was suspicious.

The woman, who was in her 60s, needed help sending the money when she went into the Cranbourne bank.

She said she didn’t know the recipient’s surname – and Pathirannahalage decided to probe further.

The woman scrolled through her text messages to find the name, and showed the thread to Pathirannahalage, who noticed very affectionate language.

“The messages were very lovey dovey, and looked like they were getting increasingly coercive,” he said.

However the woman was adamant she needed to send the money to her “boyfriend” for medical treatment.

“She told me her boyfriend, who she met on social media, lived in Turkey and needed to fly to the UK for treatment, but his account had been frozen so was unable to receive the funds from her,” Pathirannahalage said.

“He told her to instead send the money to his friend in Sydney who could then transfer him the money.

“The reason she didn’t know who she was transferring the funds to was because she had never met the person on the other end of the line who she thought was her boyfriend, and so didn’t know their friends either.

“Even though the holes in the scammer’s story were clear to me, she was blinded by her love for him.

“These criminals are cunning and will prey on people’s kindness to steal their money.”

Meanwhile, after he took the woman into a private room, the scammer actually phoned her about the money.

He contacted the bank’s fraud team to investigate- but also had to convince the woman she was being scammed.
“I said ‘I would never do this if I were you. I believe you are being scammed’,” he said.

“In the moment, customers don’t see you as someone protecting them from losing their money. You are the person who is breaking their heart.

“She was thankful for me intervening with the transaction, which had saved her from losing a whole paycheque.”

He warned anybody unsure of sending money to anybody to just ask for help.

NAB customer reports of romance scams are up almost 30 per cent since last year the bank said.

Scamwatch estimates Australians lost $33 million to romance and friendship scams last year, NAB Executive of Group Investigations Chris Sheehan said it was vital Australians know how to recognise the red flags.

“These scams can have a devastating impact – both financial and emotional – and we see people of all ages, genders and demographics targeted,” Mr Sheehan, a former Australian Federal Police executive, said

“While many Aussies now start long and successful relationships online, it is vital to know how to recognise a potential partner from a scammer.

“Romance and friendship scams re-enforce the need for a co-ordinated, national approach to the scam epidemic, given many start on dating apps, social media platforms or messaging apps.”