A week ago I warned my electorate of scams in a series of newspaper articles - unfortunately too late for a 63 year-old injured Rockingham man on Newstart allowances who may have lost $6,000.
This man walked into my office and has asked me to publicise his experience.
His experience is extraordinary – not least because six times he was able to go to four local retailers and obtain iTunes cards to the value of $1,000 with very few questions asked.
At 8.30am last Tuesday (14 August) the resident spoke on his mobile to a caller purporting to work for IF Telecom, which he said owed him $300 because he had paid too much in monthly phone rentals.
The scammer said he couldn’t pay by cheque; that he needed to put the money into this resident’s bank account.
The scammer used this excuse to gain access to online bank accounts, to switch money around in the accounts, to falsely claim that in paying my constituent $300 he had made a grave error and added a “3” and had transferred $3,300.
The scammer had indeed transferred $3,300 – but from the resident’s own savings.
The scammer then suggested my constituent purchase iTunes gift cards to repay the $3,000. He said that he could buy only $1,000 worth of cards from each retailer and if he was queried he should just say that the cards were gifts for his children.
So cards to the value of $3,000 were bought from individual retailers and the details on the cards were read to the scammer – who then doubled that amount to $6,000 with another claim of a faulty transfer. Again the resident went out and bought more iTunes cards.
Throughout the entire exercise, the scammer stayed on the line for a period of two hours, gently guiding and encouraging the resident.
In that period the resident had bought iTunes cards on his Visa credit card to the total value of $6,000. In two instances, the resident went to the same retailer twice. In only one case was he questioned – by a young man who readily accepted the line that it was for gifts for his kids.
My previous warning to residents warned that Australians are being ripped off for millions of dollars by scammers.
But I also hope that retailers alert their staff to the risk of scams. It is very troubling that this resident was queried only once while making six big individual purchases of iTunes cards.
These cards were all bought on a Visa credit card – and in that case the scammer, who stayed on the phone for two hours – gave him the fake reason – “it’s gifts for your kids”.
I am pleased that the resident immediately contacted WA Consumer Affairs, his bank and the police who are investigating this fraud.