Woman accepts Facebook request, costs her $462,000
We've all heard of the classic email scams. You know the ones, where someone emails you and claims that they've got an absolute fortune waiting for you, due to your long lost uncle or some rubbish. All they ask is that you pay a small administration fee, or hand over your bank details and millions of pounds will be poured into your bank account. It's fair to say that not many of us fall for these tricks anymore, but it looks like fraudsters are now getting craftier and people are still being naive.
Unfortunately for one Australian doctor, who has been given the pseudonym Jennifer Chen, she has been caught up in the latest scam and has lost all of her life savings as a result.
Jennifer accepted a friend request from someone pretending to be the American Doctor, Frank Harrison, but who was using the profile picture of Doctor Garth Davis. Chen says she didn't think much of the request as she gets quite a few from strangers who say that they are interested in her acupuncture business. But, in a weird twist, it turns out Doctor Garth Davis is the victim of plenty of hacks in the past, which forebodes what is to come.
The person who was masquerading as Doctor Harrison told Jennifer that he was thinking about moving to Australia and said that he wanted to see her in person.
"I got a phone call from him. He told me, 'I'm at the airport in [Kuala Lumpur], I got in trouble.'" said Dr Chen.
"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.'"
Chen goes on to say that she then received another call from a woman with the name Michelle Tan, who claimed to be from the Malaysian Customs Office. Apparently, Tan said that if Jennifer paid $3,000, Doctor Harrison would be allowed to get his money back.
She was then tricked into paying another 33 payments across the course of six months, with the fraudster telling her that the money was required for a variety of different reasons. Chen admits that it sounds stupid in hindsight, but at the time she genuinely thought it was 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."
Once all the money was added up, it turned out Jennifer had forked out $US 460,057 in total - which was her entire life savings.
Unsurprisingly, her husband was less than impressed with her and he instantly alerted local authorities. However, there wasn't much they could do, given that they were in Australia and the fraudster weren't. Malaysian police confirmed that they had arrested one person in connection to the crime.
The Australian Bureau of Statistic estimates that personal fraud racked up a $US2.4 billion bil last year, as it seems that some people still fall for the "send us your bank details" trick, when will people learn?