Fraudsters scam millions from WA victims

stock image.
stock image.

INCREASED figures show West Australians were tricked out of almost $14 million by scammers last year, a rise from 2018.

WA ScamNet figures show there is a 17 per cent increase of the amount reportedly pocketed by scammers, being more than $13.6 million in 2019.

The number of victims falling to scams has also increased ten per cent, with 705 people reporting losses last year.

Investment scams have surged and topped the list with more than $6 million lost, according to WA ScamNet figures.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping. Picture: Consumer Protection WA

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said the huge losses were a cause for concern as impacts on victims could be crippling, both financially and emotionally.

“It shows fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever and professional in their deceit and finding new ways to reach potential victims,” she said.

“With most scams now originating online, it’s vitally important that the public exercise extreme caution and vigilance while using the internet.”

Ms Chopping said scammers have significantly escalated their scare tactics in 2019, with a 14-fold increase in people falling victim to threats made by fraudsters.

“These ruthless scammers pretend to be in positions of authority and create a sense of urgency, pressuring the recipient of their call to act impulsively,” she said.

“They threaten their victims with deportation, arrest and fake emergencies, or pose as a love-interest to then blackmail their victims with threats of releasing secretly recorded intimate videos to friends, family or work colleagues.

“In one example, a young man transferred a $10,000 house deposit into the wrong bank account after a scammer intercepted emails between him and a real estate agent.”

Consumer Protection WA said losses to payment redirection, or ‘man in the middle’, scams almost doubled to $1.5 million, primarily as a result of false billing, phishing and hacking.

Consumer Protection WA advice:

  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into making decisions straight-away.
  • Always get a second opinion from a trusted and reliable source if someone is requesting money and you have doubts.
  • Do not respond to emails, text messages and phone calls from strangers offering predictions on shares, investment tips or investment advice – always do your own research.
  • Know who you’re dealing with on dating sites – watch out for profiles on social media and dating websites of scammers claiming to live in your area, but can’t meet due to travel or moving away, and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Never allow anyone to remotely log into your computer – if you receive a cold-call saying your computer or internet as a problem, it is most likely a scam.
  • Take a moment to think about how an organisation is asking you to make payment – government agencies and businesses will never ask you to make a payment via gift cards.

Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website and enquiries can be emailed to wascamnet@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

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