Beware of scratching your way into a scam

7 October 2010

Unsolicited scam letters enclosing colourful travel brochures and scratch cards continue to head to Australian shores from Malaysia, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Peter Kell warned today.

"Since April 2009, these letters have targeted a succession of states and territories with the most recent being the EverMas Tourism Group scam that had Western Australian consumers in its sight.

"The number of mailouts has steadily increased and the ACCC is warning Australian consumers to be on the lookout for these deceptive letters as their region may be next.

"The fake scratch cards are the key to this scam. One of the cards is always a winner with over $100,000 on offer. Anyone phoning up to claim their prize is asked to pay for various fees and charges.

"This type of scam works because of the excitement created by the winning card and the scammer's persuasive spiel. It also works because the letters look like the real thing. The brochures are very slick and are backed up by equally professional looking websites.

"Unfortunately, there is no prize and the only winners are the scammers who not only pocket the money but also collect valuable personal details such as copies of drivers' licences.  Identity theft is a growing concern and personal details have become a much sought after commodity.

"This scam also serves as strong reminder to never send money to someone you don't know," Mr Kell added. "It is very easy to become caught up in the requests for more payments when there is supposed to be a great prize at the end. But scammers favour payment by electronic funds transfer for a reason – you have virtually no hope of seeing that money again. You might also be inadvertently funding criminal gangs."

To date the main promotions have been:

  • EverMas Tourism Group that targeted Western Australia
  • Aviats Travelling Group that targeted South Australia and Northern Territory
  • Holiday Symphony Travelling Group that targeted Queensland
  • Euphoria Travelling Group that targeted the eastern states and territories, and
  • Malaysia Starize Travelling Group that targeted Western Australia.

However, the ACCC expects that this scam will reappear in Australian states or territories using a different name.

General advice for consumers who are contacted about any unexpected windfalls:

  • BE SUSPICIOUS of any unexpected prizes received via unsolicited letters, emails or telemarketing.
  • ASK why you need to pay up front money for a prize when the sum could be deducted from your winnings.
  • NEVER SEND money to people you don't know and trust.
  • GUARD your personal details and don't hand over copies of important documents such as your driver's licence, passport, credit or Medicare cards to a stranger. It can be difficult to clear your name from unauthorised debts or other scams.
  • GET independent advice if you are unsure whether an offer or request is genuine.
Release number: 
NR 216/10
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