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Tourists visiting Bali are being warned by Consumer Protection not to get involved in a card game gambling scam after a Perth man lost $200,000 to a gang of fraudsters.
The 66 year old man from Baldivis got involved in the scam in October last year and lost the money over a three month period after also travelling to Johor in Malaysia and Manila in the Philippines.
The scam began when the man was approached and befriended by a middle-aged woman while walking to the Discovery Shopping Mall in Kuta. After spending two days together, the woman invited him to meet her sister who she said was moving to Perth on a nurse exchange program and wanted some local information.
He was taken to a villa outside of Kuta where other people appeared, one being a supposedly wealthy businessman who liked gambling. The victim was enticed into playing a card game and initially didn’t have to put in his own money but won $2,000 over a few hands. The businessman put down $5,000 on a subsequent hand and then a further $50,000 before the victim stopped the game.
A suitcase purported to contain $80,000 was then produced and, made to believe he had a guaranteed winning hand, the scam victim was duped into putting up $57,000 of his own money. To give him time to raise the money, the cards were sealed in an envelope so the game could continue at a later date.
The victim is told that his money will be put in a safe on a ship which will dock in Johor in Malaysia and he travelled there in November 2018 where the game continued. Here he was persuaded to invest another $50,000 as the stakes in the game rose.
The game then moves on to Manila in the Philippines in January this year where the victim invests a further $100,000 of his own money believing he has a guaranteed prospect of winning about $200,000 as well as getting all his money back.
After handing over the final payment to two members of the gang at a fast food store in Manila, they disappeared on the pretext of going to the toilet and the man has had no contact from them since.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said it has been many years since reports of this scam have been received, but it appears the scammers are back in business.
“The scenario in this case is identical to the previous reports we have received. Victims are duped into believing that they have a winning hand and it’s impossible to lose so this entices them to invest more of their money into the game,” she said.
“An important part of the scam is building a relationship with the victim, so they trust the perpetrators and believe that they will win a fortune on a hand that can’t lose. But in the end the money is lost and, in this case, a senior member of our community has handed over his life’s savings.
“We strongly advise anyone going overseas not to get involved in these games as tempting as the proposition may be at the time. The perpetrators are professional criminals so won’t take no for an answer and put enormous pressure on their victims to take part. Once the game begins and money is invested, the victim thinks they have no choice but to play along as the stakes get higher.
“These fraudsters who are preying on unsuspecting tourists are probably part of an international organised crime gang so they are not the type of people anyone wants to get involved with, and victims could also be putting their safety at risk.”
Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. Enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / firstname.lastname@example.org