You are planning a holiday overseas. You search the internet and
see a great hotel deal. It's far cheaper than the rest. The
pictures look great. You can see yourself luxuriating in that huge
bed and diving into the beautiful blue pool.
So you send your money to the account given on the website. You
fly and take a taxi to the hotel looking forward to relaxing in
your lovely room and the pool.
But they've never heard of you. They never got your money.
You've been scammed. Your Internet communications were hijacked
by tech-savvy crooks who set up realistic looking websites and
'phish' to hook people just like you.
The one bit of good news is that you shouldn't feel silly.
You are not alone. The Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission warns scammers are getting better and better at hacking
into travel websites and diverting people booking holidays to their
own shonky bank accounts. They also set up realistic looking but
fake online listings for hotels and rental properties.
The ACCC received more than 100 travel-related scam complaints
in the first four months of 2013. More than a quarter of a million
dollars has been pinched by the scammers.
One of the most common scams is to sell discount vouchers that
turn out to be worthless when you present them to the hotel.
John Schmidt, CEO of AUSTRAC - Australia's financial
intelligence authority - told the ABC some victims have been hit
twice - once when they lose their holiday money in the scam, then
again when a person claiming to be a lawyer or foreign police
officer contacts them to say they are part of a team trying to
recover the lost funds. Guess what - all you have to do is pay them
money to join the operation against the scammers. Naturally, it
turns out they are part of the scam too.
But there are genuine moves to take legal action to recover lost
holiday money - not from the scammers themselves, but from a London
based bank used by the crooks to receive money from their victims.
Millions of dollars from victims around the world are reported to
have been funneled through accounts at the bank.
But to succeed any legal action would have to prove the bank was
negligent in its legal requirements in vetting the identity of
account holders. Even then, there would have to be signs of fraud
that the bank would have been reasonably expected under banking
regulations to have picked up. It's a very long shot.
ASIC chairman confirmed that ASIC will continue its tough stance against suspected insider trading.
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