Travel agency owner thwarts Facebook scam

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Consumer Protection would like to highlight the actions of a Kimberley travel agency owner who has prevented people in the region from losing thousands of dollars in a Facebook scam involving wire transfer.

A customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, turned up at Travel World in Broome on Saturday (15 February 2014) to try to send money via Western Union to America. It is common for travel agencies to offer wire transfer services.

Owner Lisa Bone was quick to realise it was a dodgy transaction.

“We always chat to people about who they are sending money to because wire transfer is popular with scammers. This lady told me she had won the lottery and that if she sent $950, she would get $170,000 in return. I knew right away it was a fraud.

“On discussing it further I found out that the customer had received a personal message to her Facebook inbox from a friend who had won a Facebook lottery and could now pay off her mortgage. The message contained a link to the Facebook page of ‘Lady officer Gwen Roberts’ who was supposedly dishing out the lottery money.

“The customer had clicked through and begun communicating with this ‘Lady officer Gwen Roberts’ and was receiving high pressure messages to transfer funds to a Ruth Ray in Wisconsin, USA or otherwise she would miss out on her win.

“There were various amounts you could transfer and different returns. Another local person known to this customer had sent $2,000 via the post office and thought she was going to get $200,000. Two other local people were planning to send money.

“At first the customer was distressed that I suggested she hold off on sending the money until Monday. She 100% believed the scammer and feared she would miss out.

“I encouraged the customer to speak to the Facebook friend who sent the original message but to have the conversation off Facebook. It turns out this friend had had her Facebook account hacked and didn’t send the messages about a lottery win.

“Today the customer’s wrapped and she brought in a box of chocolates for me to say thank you.”

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll praised the travel agent for stepping in.

“I know it is challenging for those who work at wire transfer outlets because they cannot deny their customers a service but feel a social and moral responsibility to alert them to scams.

“We are grateful to Lisa for intervening and the information that she has given to WA ScamNet has enabled us to report the Facebook page, which should be closed down soon. We have also been able to report the payment recipient details (Ruth Ray, Wisconsin) to Western Union. In addition to this we have alerted wire transfer outlets in the Kimberley of this scam affecting local people.

“Anyone who has been communicating with or sending money to Lady officer Gwen Roberts should contact WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.”

Consumer Protection tips:

  • Be suspicious of any lottery win offered when you have not entered a lottery
  • Never pay money to receive money
  • Talk over the situation with a friend or family member or an officer at WA ScamNet (1300 30 40 54)
  • Report suspicious Facebook profiles or pages to phish@fb.com

END OF RELEASE

Background:

The bogus Facebook page (reported with a request for it to be closed down) can currently be found at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/ladyofficer.gwenroberts.7?fref=ts

It was created 11 days ago using a stolen Military personnel photograph as the profile picture. The photo was taken from http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/keyport/WomenDivers/Wdivers5.htm

The images of supposed ‘International Facebook Lottery’ winners are photoshopped versions of true lottery winners e.g. http://nbclatino.com/2013/07/30/chicago-lottery-winner-shares-her-plans-after-getting-the-good-news/

(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)

Follow us on Twitter: @ConsumerWA or like our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/ConsumerProtectionWesternAustralia

Media Contact:
Alina Cavanagh
9282 0679 or 0423-846397
alina.cavanagh@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
17 Feb 2014

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