Scammers’ cheap tricks cost businesses dearly

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Scammers are pretending to be deaf or disabled to rip off Western Australian health service providers, following similar frauds against accommodation and motor vehicle businesses.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said scammers claimed to be unable to communicate on the phone and made contact by email, or used the National Relay Service to send the message for them to make it look authentic.

Mr Mischin said four cases had been reported to WA ScamNet recently, including one resulting in monetary loss that was significant to the business and another that was a near miss.

“Generally the scammers use stolen credit card details, pay too much and ask the business to send the additional money somewhere by wire transfer,” he said.

“A shiatsu masseur accepted an email booking for 10 disabled people.  The total cost was $1,188 but instead $2,838 was paid and a request to send the extra $1,650 via Western Union to ‘the driver of the clients’ was met.

“Another health massage business owner took an email booking for 10 people, which would cost $1,200. She was then asked to process a payment of $2,450, take $700 as a deposit and send $1,750 to the ‘driver of the clients’ by Western Union.  She accepted the initial payment but did not pay any money via Western Union.”

The Minister said the other businesses had contacted WA ScamNet before taking or sending money, only to receive confirmation that they had been communicating with scammers.

“An acupuncture business received an email from a scammer claiming to be a hearing impaired person wanting to book in 10 family members for their father’s 70th birthday,” he said.

“A mechanic in Welshpool was asked to fix a vehicle for a scammer pretending to be hearing impaired who wanted to overpay by $1,750 on credit card and have the extra money sent by the repairer via Western Union to supposedly pay for the car to be towed from Queensland.”

Mr Mischin warned businesses to be wary when accepting payment by credit card and not to facilitate an overpayment that involved the wire transfer of funds to another party.

“Wire transfer is very difficult to trace, hence it being a preferred payment method of scammers.  Businesses need to realise that sending money by wire means it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get it back if the recipient turns out to be a fraudster,” he said.

Fact File

Minister's office - 6552 5600

Consumer Protection
Media release
19 Aug 2015

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