WA people lost $10m through scams last year

Sad day when people you trust turn out to be scammers.
Sad day when people you trust turn out to be scammers.

MORE than 500 people in Western Australia lost a total of $10.7 million to scams last year – an increase of 32 per cent in 2017.

According to figures released by WA ScamNet, 569 people were duped by scams including investments, romance, and buying and selling online.

Organised criminals constantly changed their names and methods to keep ahead of warnings, Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said on Tuesday.

Some swindlers are also increasing their threatening behaviour by making people believe they will be arrested or deported if they do not immediately pay a tax debt, often by purchasing iTunes or Google Play cards.

“Scammers masqueraded as the tax office, police, telcos, foreign embassies and banks in order to dupe their targets into paying money, revealing personal information or gaining access to computers and, ultimately, bank accounts,” Mr Hillyard said.

“These fraudsters may also pretend to be crime prevention agencies and enlist 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.”

That is what happened in December 2018 to Marion* when she received a call from someone purporting to be from the NBN.

The caller said they were acting on behalf on the Australian Crime Commission and asked if she would like to help them catch scammers who had hacked into her computer system.

Marion was swindled out of $30,000

She allowed the scammer access to her computer after downloading some software, then logged onto her online banking.

The scammers said they had deposited $30,000 in one of her accounts, but this was in fact a transfer from another of her accounts.

They then printed details of a bank in Thailand where she was to send the money, saying they would arrest the scammer when he tried to collect the funds.

The scammers then instructed her to visit her bank branch to complete the transfer, while she stayed on the line the entire time.

Marion had to visit four bank branches before she could successfully complete the transfer.

After sharing a story with a friend she realised she had been scammed.

Marion said she wished the banks had asked more questions.

“Don’t pick up the phone in the first place, just put the receiver down if you don’t know them,” she said.

* surname withheld.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMS:

  1. Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or email attachments
  2. Hang up on phone calls asking for remote access to your computer
  3. Choose passwords carefully
  4. Review privacy and security settings on social media
  5. Beware of requests for your details or money
  6. Be careful when shopping online.