Return to sender operation thwarts scammers

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The suspicious minds of officers from Consumer Protection and Australia Post have saved about 200 West Australians from ‘heartbreak hotel’ as part of a new initiative targeting overseas fraudsters. 

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said in the past two months, 600 letters containing payments totalling almost $19,000 were stopped from being sent to overseas criminals and returned to victims. 

Mr Mischin said the largest single payment from one consumer was $1,120, with other victims sending multiple payments for various scams involving clairvoyants’ life predictions, phoney prizes and lotteries and lucky lottery numbers. 

“More than half a million mail items promoting about 100 scams bound for Australian households have been intercepted in the past 12 months,” he said. 

“Consumer Protection and Australia Post have now begun intercepting mail going the other way, saving payments from mostly elderly people reaching overseas fraudsters, whose postal addresses are well known to the authorities. 

“While most of the payments are small amounts averaging $90 per victim, they can quickly add up to a substantial windfall for criminals behind these activities and represent losses to people who can least afford it. 

“We don’t want overseas criminals gaining any financial benefit from their illegal activities, with the money potentially being used to finance their next fraud and thereby opening up the possibility of more people falling victim.” 

The Minister said the payments were in the form of $10,000 worth of personal cheques, almost $6,000 in cash and the remainder were credit card payments, money orders and bank cheques.
 
“Following interception by authorities, the cash was converted into cheques and payments were returned to the senders with a notification and information on mail scams,” he said.
 
“I urge anyone who receives scam mail in the post not to respond, as you will then be inundated with more scam mail clogging your mailbox.
 
“Giving credit card or bank account details also risks the possibility of further fraud and perhaps greater losses in the future.” 
 
       Fact File
  • The Australian Postal Corporations Act 1989 allows Australia Post to remove any mail they suspect contains scam mail.  Consumer Protection then inspects the mail for contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law
  • Scam victims should contact Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054, email wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au  or visit http://www.scamnet.wa.gov.au 

Minister’s office - 6552 5600

Consumer Protection
Media release
08 Apr 2015

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