‘You’ve basically given them a free iPhone’: Aussies have lost $50m this year in scams
Cheating people out of their hard-earned savings is big business, and people selling new and second-hand goods in online marketplaces like Gumtree are the latest group to be targeted by internet scammers.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australians have lost more than $50 million in scams this year alone, and those are just the ones that have been reported.
Many people are too embarrassed to speak up, or just don't get around to it.
Lisa Du, who helps provide technology training to older Australians through company ReadyTechGo, was approached while trying to sell a brand new iPhone 8 with an asking price of $800.
"Within an hour of listing it on Gumtree, I got a text message from a "Sue" on my mobile phone.
"I was like, cool — someone's interested.
"I emailed [her] straight away … she replied quite quickly and said, "this is for my niece and I'm going to pay you $100 to post it, I'll do it all through PayPal."
Lisa had been duped.
The scammer sent a fake transaction through PayPal, making Lisa believe she had the money, so she posted the iPhone.
But the money never materialised.
"You've basically given them a free iPhone," she said.
Lisa's husband, Brad Donnini, was also approached by a scammer on Gumtree while trying to help a client sell a caravan for $25,000.
Immediately suspicious, he reported the incident to police.
He said there were plenty of warning signs that it was a scam.
"Wanting our bank details so early on, before really much discussion; explaining that he had limited communications, when he was obviously able to use Gumtree to see my ad, and then wanting to only communicate through email," he said.
Social media sites being used in romance scams
Jan Marshall was fleeced of $260,000 by a romance scammer.
She said those seeking to fleece people of their money online are adept at emotional manipulation.
"They deliberately get us into a state where we fall in love with them and we drop our guard," she said.
Ms Marshall recently released a memoir, Romance Scam Survivor: The whole sordid story.
"He has built a picture of my ideal longing and dream — even better than I could imagine myself," the book reads.
"A picture of how it might be to share my life with someone is a very powerful incantation of my wants and desires."
She wasn't the only person to lose money this way — not by a long shot.
According to the ACCC's Scamwatch, Australians have already lost $9,950,502 to dating and romance scams this year alone.
Excuses which tug on the heartstrings
New South Wales Police Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Acting Superintendent Matt Craft, says NSW Police prosecute offenders for fraud-related activity on a daily basis.
"[They] generally demonstrate some sort of hardship or disability, wanting you to deposit your money," he said.
"You're the seller and here these people are, trying to get you to part with your money.
"You need to treat these things with suspicion."
Mr Craft says these sorts of crimes can take a toll on people emotionally, on top of the financial loss.
"We do see victims becoming traumatised time and time again," he said.
"They're embarrassed to report it to police, [but] we encourage them to report it.
"They need to understand that the NSW Police will take it seriously."
Don't engage — just delete
Detective Acting Superintendent Craft says government websites such as Scamwatch and documents like the Little Black Book of Scams on the ACCC's website are ways people can identify whether they're potentially being taken for a ride.
"When somebody asks you for a payment request, you need to have your wits about you and treat it with suspicion," he said.
"Generally when you ask further questions about why they're taking you down a particular path, you'll quickly realise that something's not quite right."