Telemarketing conmen, believed to be based in Hong Kong, are again targeting Australian consumers, particularly those with Chinese surnames.
Where they can, the scammers use Mandarin or Cantonese to build a rapport with the recipients of the phone call.
Recent complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have seen a very significant rise in the amounts lost to these scammers.
"It is an old style scam operating through a simple phone call and yet it is netting hundreds of thousands of dollars from trusting consumers right across the country," ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today. "The promise of a large win and the scammers' persistence hook consumers into paying upfront fees for club memberships, taxes and other charges.
"Anyone tempted to send money should ask themselves - if I have won so much money why don't they just take it from my winnings?
"Scammers go to great lengths to convince consumers that their requests are genuine - they can be very persuasive. Consumers should hang up immediately if they receive such a call. Once money is paid, it is next to impossible to recover."
Consumers, particularly members of the Chinese community, should make family and friends aware of this scam.
The ACCC's SCAMwatch site, www.scamwatch.gov.au, has issued an alert that includes the following advice:
- Hang up if you receive similar telemarketing calls. Be suspicious of any unexpected prizes from telemarketers, letters or spammers.
- Tell your family and friends about this scam, especially if English is not their first language.
- Don't send money to anyone you don't know and trust.
- If a close friend or family member suddenly starts to transfer large sums of money overseas you could discuss this with them. If you think they are sending the money to a scammer you may need to help them deal with the situation and stop the money.
- And remember …if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
If you need any assistance, more information or want to report this scam call the ACCC's Infocentre on 1300 302 502.