Embargoed to 0001 Saturday August 05 File photo dated 06/08/13 of someone using a laptop. More than two scams a day ranging from fake online dating to copycat disability badge websites are being reported to some councils, figures show.You’d think in this day and age people won’t easily scammed of their personal details and money. Turns out the bad guys are smarter and more creative with their scams these days.
And an Australian doctor, who has been given the pseudonym Jennifer Chen, was victim to the latest scam.
She accepted a friend request from a person claiming to be American Doctor Frank Harrison, but was using a profile picture of Doctor Garth Davis. Doctor Chen didn’t think much of the random request, as she reportedly gets a few from strangers who are interested in her acupuncture business.
It also appears that Doctor Garth Davis gets hacked quite a bit.
The person operating the fake Doctor Harrison account told Jennifer that he was thinking of moving to Australia and wanted to see her in person. She’s told news.com.au: “I got a phone call from him. He told me, ‘I’m at the airport in [Kuala Lumpur], I got in trouble.’ I said, ‘What kind of trouble?’ He said, ‘I carried $US1.5 million through customs, they think I’m carrying too much cash. I got big penalty. Please help me.'”
She quickly received another call from a woman with the name Michelle Tan, who claimed to be from the Malaysian Customs Office. Doctor Chen was told that if she paid a $3,000 (£2,273) fee then the fake Doctor Harrison would be able to get his money back.
The Australian woman was conned into 33 payments over the course of six months, with the person on the other end of the phone telling her a variety of excuses for the additional payments.
Doctor Chen admits that in retrospect it sounds stupid, but at the time it sounded legitimate: “I don’t know why I’m so stupid. My psychology is I already paid the money to him, the girl told me once you pay this you will get the money back, customs will release the luggage to him.
“I didn’t wake up, I didn’t realise both of them are group scam. I was also scared to tell my husband. Finally, I had to tell my husband I made a big mistake.”
After the extended scam, Jennifer had forked out $AUD571,000 (£348,639/$US460,057) which was her entire life savings.
Her husband was understandably furious and he quickly alerted the local authorities – but they’re very limited in what they can do from Australia. Malaysian police have arrested one person in the north-western state of Kedah.
But Doctor Chen’s ordeal is just one of about 200,000 reports that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network received last year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that personal fraud racks up a $3 billion (£1.8 billion/$US2.4 billion) bill every year.