Wed, 30 Jan, 2019Joanita Wibowo

Warning: Aussie grandma loses $30K to scam pretending to catch scammers

Warning: Aussie grandma loses $30K to scam pretending to catch scammers

Consumer Protection has urged caution against possible scams as Western Australia lost a total of almost $11 million to scams in 2018.

One of the victims was Marion, a 78-year-old woman who lost $30,000 to a sophisticated scheme. She received a call about the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout from someone claiming to be from the Australian Crime Commission, who then asked for her help in catching scammers. She complied and sent $30,000 to a Thailand bank account, not realising she had been conned until a few days later.

“I was completely taken in, I must confess,” she told the ABC News. “It was like I was hypnotised in a way … I felt I was helping the world in some way, I was saving the world.”

According to commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, the “catch a scammer” scheme was where criminals pretended to be crime prevention agencies and enlisted the help of their targets to "catch a scammer" by getting them to send money so that the scammer can be caught when they come to collect it.”

Other common scams included outstanding tax scams, fake invoice scams and bogus requests for a change of bank account.

The Department of Consumer Protection said 569 Western Australians reported losses to scams in 2018, a 42 per cent increase from the previous year. The losses totalled $10.68 million, increasing 32 per cent from 2017.

Investment scams accounted as the biggest source of loss, followed by romance scams and stings where people lost money from buying and selling online.

Hillyard told the ABC News these numbers were “just the tip of the iceberg”, as many more people had not come forward due to embarrassment or other reasons.

“Perpetrating scams is a highly profitable business for organised criminals who are becoming increasingly professional at fleecing money from their innocent victims as they constantly change their names and methods to keep ahead of consumer warnings,” said Hillyard.

“Out of the blue emails and phone calls should be treated with suspicion, especially if they are demanding money, personal information or asking to change bank details. If you are not 100 per cent sure that the person you are dealing with is the real deal, hang up and call the person or organisation back using previously known contact details or by looking up their official website.”

Have you been stung by a scam? Share your story with us in the comments below.