Threat of losing visa costs international student almost $14,000 in phone scam

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ConsumerMulticultural / multilingual

A Malaysian international student studying in Perth has lost $13,782 to a phone scam after she was threatened with having her visa cancelled and being deported.

The scammers, pretending to be from the Immigration Department, cold-called her and demanded she pay the money immediately to avoid arrest, instructing her to pay by purchasing Google Play cards at Aldi supermarkets.

After purchasing the cards from several Aldi supermarkets in the southern suburbs, she gave the scammers the codes on the cards. It wasn’t until she went to a Big W store at Cockburn Central that she was alerted that she may be a victim of a scam and she then sought advice from authorities.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said a campaign targeting the sellers of iTunes and Google Play cards has prevented further losses by this scam victim.

“Woolworths and Coles have been highly responsive to our campaign to train staff to alert any customers who intend to make large purchases of these cards which scammers now use as their preferred currency,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Putting doubt in the mind of scam victims may trigger them to get advice before going ahead with the purchases. The campaign is aimed at disrupting the scammers’ modus operandi which seeks to put their victims under pressure with the threat of arrest and, in this case, deportation unless the money is paid immediately.

“We would appeal to all retailers who sell iTunes and Google Play cards to put in place a process where staff are aware of this issue and will question customers when they attempt to make purchases involving unusually high amounts of money.

“We want to reduce the community’s losses to these types of scams and the cooperation of retailers is vital if we are to be successful.”

Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website Enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email or by calling 1300 30 40 54.


Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791  

Consumer Protection
Media release
09 May 2019

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