‘Very sneaky’ scam hits Australia
A NEW scam targeting Melbourne taxi drivers has been exposed.
A cabbie revealed how he was targeted on Monday during a routine trip from Richmond to St Kilda that should have netted him $35 but instead left him $450 out of pocket.
Srijan told Melbourne radio station 3AW a "charming" British man and his girlfriend hopped into his cab for the 16-minute drive.
As the cab pulled in to its destination, the male passenger noticed he had neither cash or a credit card. Conveniently, neither did his girlfriend.
He told the driver he would transfer the money into his bank account using the ANZ app and, because the driver was so accommodating, he'd make it $50 instead of $35.
"I gave him my BSB and account number and he told me he was going to transfer $50," Srijan said. But his passenger quickly returned with a worried look on his face. He told the driver he had accidentally put $500 in the account instead of $50.
"He was sure. He told me to check my account … so I logged in to my account, I can see $500 deposited into my account and that money I could use right away. It was right," Srijan said.
He drove the man and his girlfriend to an ATM where he took $450 out and paid it back. He said the man exited the cab, pulled his girlfriend's scarf over his face to shield him from the cold and went on his way.
Soon after, the original $500 deposit into Srijan's account had vanished. Shocked, he phoned another taxi driver who told him the same thing had happened to him.
Srijan's wife contacted ANZ who advised the couple to go to police. They are investigating.
The scam is simple enough. Experts say it's similar to a bounced cheque. It shows up because the money was transferred, but the person who transferred it likely contacts their bank, claims the money was erroneously deposited and officially disputes the charges.
Cyber security expert and Associate Dean at RMIT University Professor Asha Rao told news.com.au the scam has "many layers".
"I'm not sure if he used his own phone or the passenger's phone, but if he didn't use his own phone it's very easy to fake," Prof Rao said.
She said it's possible the money was transferred without there being a transaction record for the deposit and withdrawal. If there is no transaction record, it may be more difficult for the victim to get the money back.
Queensland University of Technology senior lecturer in criminology Cassandra Cross shares that opinion.
"(It's) a new take on a classic fraud, the overpayment scam," Dr Cross told news.com.au.
"This is very common with payments of online good. Your example takes that to a different target with the mobile pay. In other circumstances, the cheque will bounce or a credit card will be stolen so the funds aren't actually there."
Victoria Police did not comment but Scam Watch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, reports 176 "overpayment scams" were recorded in May this year alone, costing Australian victims $68,449.
The website outlines how the scam works. "The scammer will contact you, make you an offer - often quite generous - them make payment through credit card or cheque. It will be for an amount greater than the agreed price.
"The scammer will contact you with an apology for the overpayment, offering a fake excuse. The scammer might tell you that the extra money was included to cover agent's fees or extra shipping costs. Or they may just say they simply made a mistake when writing the cheque."
A spokesman for ANZ told news.com.au the bank was aware of the scam and were investigating.
"For security reasons and because police are investigating, it would be inappropriate to comment any further on the specifics at this time.
"Customers can protect themselves from this particular scam by making sure they never give their bank details to anyone else, particularly strangers."
Prof Rao agreed. She said she had not heard of the scam using mobile apps or targeting taxi drivers but warned it was never a good idea to visit an ATM on behalf of a passenger.
"Firstly, he's been defrauded and he's now down $450 - $485 if you include the fare he missed out on - but he's also now involved in money laundering.
"Taxi drivers should always ask for pre-pay during night time trips and if a passenger says they've overpaid, tell them to take it up with their bank."