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Phone Scam targeting Chinese Nationals in Australia by pretending to be from the Embassy RAKES IN MILLIONS $$$

IN RECENT months, you may have been confused by a voicemail left on your phone in Mandarin.

Whether you understand it or not, authorities have warned smartphone users to hang up immediately.

Police have warned of a phone scam targeting Chinese nationals in Australia by pretending to be from the embassy and demanding a large sum of money.

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“We have offenders contacting victims on the phone purporting to be from the Chinese Embassy, and saying victims either committed an offence or had their identity stolen. As a result, victims are asked to pay fines or a debt,” Financial Crimes Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett told a conference Wednesday afternoon.

“I want to stress that the Chinese Embassy would never contact a person to pay money over the phone.

“We’ve had incidents where the victim is threatened, or their family back in China is threatened.”

She said there have been cases where the victim didn’t have any money. In these cases, the victim was instructed to stage a kidnapping so they could get money overseas from their parents.

The scam has reaped in millions of dollars, targeting victims across Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. One victim alone in NSW had $1.9 million stolen.

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According to Det Supt Howlett, there have been at least 50 reports of this scam across NSW, with three calls this week alone.

But she said a lot of the victims still aren’t coming forward, urging people receiving the calls to hang up and notify the authorities.

Variations of this scam have been reported recently. In another one, an automated voice in Mandarin claiming to be calling on behalf of the Chinese Embassy tells the listener they had an important parcel to collect.

They are encouraged to press 9, at which point they are transferred to a scammer who tries to take their personal details.

China’s Deputy Consul-General in Sydney Tong Xuejun said more than 1000 cases had been reported since August last year.

“We have confirmed about 40 cases that caused a loss. The total amount of money involved is about $10 million,” he said, adding that the money lost ranged from $2000 to one case of $3.5 million.

In another fraud, the scammer tells the victim they are involved in a crime like money-laundering or embezzlement, and threatens them with jail or deportation unless they pay a hefty sum to get a “priority investigation” to clear their name.

They also try to extract sensitive information like passport numbers, bank details and addresses.

According to Scamwatch, if the money is sent to the scammer, it is likely lost and extremely difficult to recover.

Many non-Chinese people have reported getting the calls too, and being left confused.

The Chinese Consulate-General has urged Chinese citizens in Australia to be aware of fraudulent calls.

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Henry Sapiecha

Con artists strike it rich in Hong Kong with job fraud and ID theft totalling HK$7.82 million in 2018, or seven times more than all of 2017

Desperate jobseekers persuaded to hand over personal details and bank information in fake employment scammers

Hong Kong’s con artists have scammed ­job seekers out of seven times more cash in the first four months of 2018 than they did in the entire year of 2017, police revealed on Monday.

Identity theft and fake job offers drove the rise, with the latest police figures showing 78 Hongkongers losing HK$7.82 million (US$996,000) in 48 reported scams.

That is compared to the HK$1.13 million that 43 vunerable victims lost last year to con artists in 33 cases, covering a variety of scams. Of the HK$7.82 million, HK$7.1 million was lost in loan-related employment fraud, a figure that dwarfs the HK$480,000 con artists raked in using similar schemes in 2017

This year’s biggest loser to date is a 26-year-old woman who was duped of HK$800,000 in a loan-related job scam. She replied to an online job advert in March.

“To secure the position, she provided the interviewer with a copy of her identity card, together with other personal data,” chief inspector Jackie Tam Wing-sze of the force’s commercial crime bureau said.

The victim was later told HK$780,000 had been paid into her bank account. She was requested to help withdraw the money, with the promise of a HK$13,000 payday afterwards.

Some weeks later, she received a formal request of debt recovery from a bank, and realised the fraudster had stolen her identity to apply for a personal loan amounting to HK$800,000.

A 25-year-old woman was conned out of HK$640,000 after she responded to a job advert on the internet in January.

She was lured into applying for loans, and to use her credit cards to buy gold, and was promised HK$74,000 in commission if she did so. According to police, she was told the “company would be responsible for repaying any & all the debts”.

The woman only realised it was a scam after she gave all the money and gold to the conman and then lost contact with him.

Police said they had also observed criminals were more & more using the lure of attractive job offers, such as working as a flight attendant for overseas airlines, to swindle jobseekers.

In November, a 24-year-old woman fell victim when she answered an advert for a supposed vacancy with an overseas airline on a social media platform. In due course she was eventually convinced to part with a total of HK$170,000 as part of the fake recruitment process.

The victim only discovered the scam the following month when she tried to verify her job application.

The woman is the biggest loser of such fraud in recent years, police stated.

Officials attributed the increase in the reports of employment fraud, and the amount of losses this year, to their investigations into a loan-related job scam in which 10 victims lost HK$3.4 million.

“Any person could be the victim of employment fraud,” Tam said, adding that con artists would always invent different ways to steal other people’s money.

Increasingly, Tam said, fraudsters were using various scams online and on social media.

With the approach of the summer holidays, Tam said school leavers and summer jobseekers should be “cautious and on vigilant alert at all times”.

Senior labour officer Yeung chi-kit of the Labour Department said jobseekers should be wary of adverts for well-paid jobs that do not require work experience, or any academic qualifications.

He said all persons should be cautious if asked to pay deposits, training fees, for goods and services, or asked to provide personal data or credit card, identity card, and bank account details.

www.crimefiles.net

www.intelagencies.com

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Henry Sapiecha

ACCC: Australians were duped over AU$2.1m to Cryptocurrency-related scams in 2017

A detailed report from Australia’s consumer watchdog found many locals got caught up in ‘pyramid’ cryptocurrency schemes last year, hoping to capitalise on the ‘success’ of bitcoin.

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“As the value of actual cryptocurrencies increased, so too did the scam losses in what people thought were real investments,” the report continued. “By the end of the year, reports of losses related to cryptocurrencies exceeded AU$2.1 million but as with other scams, this is likely the very tip of the iceberg.”

According to the ACCC, examples of cryptocurrency scams in 2017 included fake initial coin offerings (ICOs), which purport to be the launch of a new cryptocurrency.

Other scams, the ACCC said, capitalised on the general confusion about how cryptocurrency works and instead of people discovering how to directly buy cryptocurrencies, many found themselves caught up in what were essentially pyramid schemes.

“A number of reports showed that victims entered into cryptocurrency-based scams through friends and family who convinced them they were onto a good thing, a classic element of pyramid schemes,” the watchdog wrote.

“Not all cryptocurrency-related scams involved victims attempting to invest in stocks or initial coin offerings. Many scammers also ask for payment through cryptocurrencies for a variety of scams because it is easier to remain anonymous while receiving payment.”

An example is paying ransomware through bitcoin.

In total, the ACCC reported Australians lost AU$340 million to scammers in 2017, the highest loss since stats were put on record.

More than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Investment scams topped the losses at AU$64 million; while dating and romance scams caused the second greatest losses at AU$42 million.

“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers use modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims. In the past few years, reports indicate scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and online,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

According to the ACCC, Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of threat-based impersonation scams in 2017. It said over AU$4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2,800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

“The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest; Telstra will never need to access your computer to ‘fix’ a problem; and Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you,” Rickard continued. “Finally, none of these organisations will ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards.”

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RELATED COVERAGE

Australia Queensland.Toowoomba mother fights Centrelink after identity fraud

A TOOWOOMBA single mum of three wants to know how it was possible to have her Centrelink accounts hacked twice and why she can’t get her money back.

Kristy Harper, 27, said her problems with Centrelink began back in September last year when she didn’t receive her family payments.

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Her online account had been hacked and payments were redirected a different bank account.

In response to the hacking, Centrelink stopped all access to that online account and informed her that if she needed to change anything related to her account, she needed to ring up and use the voice recognition software or go in face-to-face.

Then, in late October, Centrelink called to ask why she hadn’t disclosed her tax returns.

Ms Harper was baffled as she hadn’t filed any returns.

It was then she learnt that three tax statements had been lodged in her name, amounting to $8500 in returns.

Once she’d proved that it wasn’t her who’d lodged the returns – she didn’t even have a MyGov account set up for herself – the Australian Tax Office wiped them from her history.

Life went on for Ms Harper and she stopped using online accounts.

But on July 12, there was a striking coincidence: While visiting her bank, someone attempted to hack her account.

“When I was standing in the branch in Toowoomba, notes came up on my file that I had just rung the branch up at Clifford Gardens and told the bank that they were me, giving all my details answering all my questions and said that I had lost my key cards, wallet and mobile phone,” she said.

“Lucky I was standing in the other bank because they tried to take my pay again.

“So the bank put a stop on all my accounts and made it so all contact had to be face-to-face at the one bank so they knew it was me.”

Ms Harper was due for her payments from Centrelink the day after on July 13, however when she tried to withdraw the funds, they weren’t there.

She discovered her Centrelink payments had been sent to another bank account again.

She said questioned how this had happened with the security locks that had already been put on her account after the last incident, only to find that someone had circumvented the voice recognition software and changed her bank account details again.

“It’s been a month later and I still haven’t got anywhere with getting my kids money. I have been sent on a roller coaster ride,” she said.

Ms Harper says her attempts to resolve the matter so far have failed.

“It’s a scary world and to think people steal other people’s identity is a terrifying thing to feel and have happen,” she said.

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A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the department was aware of Ms Harper’s matter.

“Any allegations of unauthorised access and identity fraud are taken very seriously and investigated,” the spokesperson said.

“The department is committed to online security and has robust systems in place to protect people’s personal information and routinely subject our online services to independent security testing.

“The department’s phone voice recognition (VoicePrint) software is very secure and a recipient has to be authenticated to use it.

“Anyone who believes their account may have been accessed by another person should contact the department and consider reporting it either to police of through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), which can be accessed via the Online Security page on our website.

“People should also contact their bank, who can stop a money transfer, investigate fraudulent transactions and issue replacement identity documents.”

  • Centrelink strongly encourage people to keep their login details secure and not share their passwords with anyone.
  • Changing passwords regularly can also help protect people against unauthorised access. There are more online security tips at humanservices.gov.au/onlinesecurity
  • People can also contact IDCARE.org, Australia’s national identity support service specialising in assisting people whose identity information has been put at risk (physical or online).
  • People can call the IDCARE Hotline is 1300 432 273, 8am – 5pm (AEDT), Monday to Friday, complete a Support Request Form or email contact@idcare.org.
  • www.fcci.com.au
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  • Henry Sapiecha

Watch out for new Telstra phone service provider scam in Queensland Australia

IF YOU are a Telstra customer and receive an email stating you’re entitled to a refund – delete it immediately.

There have been reports in Qld Australia of an email which claims customers have been charged twice by the phone service provider due to a system error. Sample screen shot telstra scam demand below

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Henry Sapiecha

Losses from reported Australian hacking victims quadrupled in 2016: ACCC

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reported a four-fold increase in hacking scams, with AU$2.9 million lost to such activity in 2016, up from AU$700,000 in 2015.

According to Targeting scams: Report of the ACCC on scams activity 2016, businesses bore the brunt of these scams, with over half — AU$1.7 million — being attributed to businesses.

“While the digital economy presents many opportunities and efficiencies for businesses, it also presents significant risks,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says in the report’s foreword.

“Scams targeting businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices and websites appear legitimate to even the astute business person.”

While the digital age is hitting businesses in Australia, the report [PDF] highlights that consumers are also being affected by scammers, with digitisation providing the opportunity for scammers to try new tricks.

Online scams — those executed via the internet, email, social networks, and mobile apps — outnumbered phone-based scams in 2016, with an increase of 130 percent over 2015.

Elsewhere in the report, losses to online scams accounted for 58 percent — AU$48.4 million — of total losses, while social media was a particularly busy platform used by scammers to lure victims, netting losses of AU$9.5 million in 2016 compared with AU$3.8 million in 2015.

Of the social media scams, the most prevalent were related to online dating and sextortion, a form of blackmail in which compromising images of the victim are used to extort money.

TAX REFUND MONIES STOLEN FROM THE ATO

SCAMMERS & ON LINE THIEVES STEALING YOUR TAX REFUND AFTER ID THEFT

The Australian Taxation Office has been targeted more than 11,000 times by identity fraudsters attempting to steal tax refunds in the 2014-2015 financial year.

And a help-service for victims of identity crime says it is being inundated with taxpayers whose IDs have been hijacked and their tax returns robbed.

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The ATO recorded 91,000 “revenue fraud incidents” in 2014-15. Photo: Louie Douvis

The 11,000 attempts at ID fraud are part of the wider picture of 91,000 “revenue fraud incidents” recorded on the ATO’s systems in 2014-2015.

Only the efforts that were detected and foiled are recorded, according to the agency, with the full extent of successful frauds unclear.

But iDcare, a service that helps victims rebuild their identities after they have been stolen, says the volume of calls for help it is currently receiving indicates that criminals are reaping a tax-time bonanza from unsuspecting taxpayers.

Managing director Dave Lacey said his staff had dealt with at least 400 cases this financial year involving tax refund theft.

He said taxpayer money was being lost as the ATO’s process was typically to determine an initial refund was fraudulent and then reissue the funds to the victim.

“We’re in tax fraud season at the moment. It’s organised crime. It’s big business. This has been going on for months now,” he said.

Mr Lacey said the biggest impact on victims was often not the initial financial loss but the effect identity theft had on their mental health, with one in five – almost one in four – requiring ongoing mental health support.

He said this was largely because of how victims were treated by government agencies and organisations when they tried to follow up on the fraud, seek answers for how it occurred and re-establish themselves.

“We test these things continuously and regrettably the standards are very low,” Mr Lacey said.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that sophisticated cyber-crims had managed to penetrate employers’ payroll systems, making off with detailed information on unsuspecting workers and using the data to lodge bogus tax returns.

Other victims have told how their legitimate tax refunds had been siphoned off into bank accounts operated by the fraudsters after fake MyGov profiles had been built by the thieves.

The ATO says it stopped about $9 million in refunds going out in 2014-2015 after finding they had been fraudulently claimed and the previous year the figure was even higher, with $17 million prevented from being paid amid 18,000 attempts at ID fraud.

Victims have complained about a lack of police follow-up, but an ATO spokeswoman said the agency had its own investigators who teamed up with the Australian Federal Police when frontline police powers were needed.

“The ATO maintains a criminal investigation capability that investigates significant tax crime matters, which includes identity crime enabled refund fraud and refers briefs of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration and prosecution,” the spokeswoman said.

“The AFP executes search warrants in support of ATO investigations and the ATO refers matters to the AFP for investigation when AFP capabilities are required.”

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ATO tax fraud scam

Paul Francisco has had his tax refund stolen by fraudsters two years in a row. The ATO have been unable to address the problem and to make matters worse they have sent him a request for payment of tax debt.

Do you know more? Email lisa.cox@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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Henry Sapiecha