“Nightmare journey” – Qld woman tells how scammers stole her ID

Grace says she was initially elated that her internet troubles could be fixed remotely. But things went from bad to worse for the Queensland woman when scammers pretended to be a well-known internet provider and stole Grace’s personal details, ID and money. The mess continues to haunt her, as Cindy Wockner reports

Nov 18, 2021, updated Nov 18, 2021
IDCare is receiving more than 400 calls per day from people whose identify has been compromised. (file image).

IDCare is receiving more than 400 calls per day from people whose identify has been compromised. (file image).

Grace’s nightmare started when she had trouble with her internet and she was expecting an NBN technician to arrive at her home to sort it out.

So when someone called a day earlier, claiming to be a technician with NBN and quoted her job number, the work details, Grace’s full name and birthdate, she didn’t think there was anything suspicious.

He told her that rather than coming to her Queensland home the next day he would just “remote in” to her laptop and mobile phone to fix the problem and download some software.

And for the inconvenience, she would be refunded $714 into her bank account. The so-called technician knew which bank, Grace hadn’t told him.

Grace had been experiencing internet dramas for so long that she was just grateful for the help and even thought “yippee” when she was told the problems could be resolved remotely.

But as Grace thought about it more, she started wondering how the person on the phone had known so much about her. Things didn’t add up. She called her internet provider who couldn’t confirm a technician had called.

Immediately Grace turned the power off, shut down her devices and called her bank to have her accounts frozen. In tears she took her devices to a computer technician to have them cleaned.

But when she went to pay the computer man for his work, her card wouldn’t work. The bank told her she had made a large transaction, a cash advance, the day before for $4500.16. She hadn’t and she couldn’t work out why the transfer had been allowed.

Trying to negotiate police reports along with the bank and internet companies became a nightmare for Grace and she wasn’t sure anymore whether emails were real or scams and whether phone calls were from people preying on her. And she couldn’t seem to get any proper answers from anyone.

“The journey is just a nightmare. I have so many questions here, if I keep going on about it, I will drive myself crazy,” Grace told InQueensland.

“I am still trying to get answers. I just don’t want other people to go through this, these people are just nasty,” she says of the scammers. “I would like these culprits caught.”

IDCare, a national not-for-profit based on the Sunshine Coast, which assists and provides counselling to victims of scams, is now taking more than 400 calls a day from desperate Australians. Grace was one of them. Most of those seeking help are aged 35-50 years.

Pleas for help are coming in from all over Australia but are concentrated in the Melbourne and Sydney regions. Some have lost all their savings.

A new 20-page IDCare report, into the Psychology of Scamming, draws on the personal experience of 100,000 victims of scams who have contacted the agency and examines the deceptive practices of scammers and who they target.

So far in 2021, IDCare has seen a 43 per cent increase in the number of calls for help compared to last year and talked to more than 140,000 people who have fallen prey to deception.

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The increase is attributable to the upsurge this year in telephone and SMS scams which have targeted Australians during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Professor David Lacey, IDCare’s managing director, says Australia is bleeding in terms of scam money at the moment.

“We get people every day ringing up who have lost their life savings,” Lacey said.

“We are trying to get a better understanding of what goes on in people’s brains.”

The study found that the most common factor leading to people being duped is a belief that the message of the scammer originates from a trusted and authoritative source.

“When we look at the last 100,000 victims to engage our case managers, we considered the main influences relating to ‘scam belief’. Put simply, what did victims of scams say explained or influenced their belief in the scammer? The use of a well-known brand impersonated by the scammer was a key influence in almost half of these cases.

“An incentive or fear are also common amongst believability,” the report finds.

Lacey said a big factor in people cutting off contact with scam networks was when family members got involved and scam outfits frequently keep notes of whether potential victims live alone or have family with them.

*(Grace is a pseudonym)


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