Scammers becoming more cunning

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
Mark Reid's Geraldton-based business was conned out of thousands of dollars via a sophisticated email scam.
Camera IconMark Reid's Geraldton-based business was conned out of thousands of dollars via a sophisticated email scam. Credit: Adam Poulsen

A Geraldton businessman is warning others to be vigilant after his company lost thousands of dollars to a sophisticated email scam.

Peak Consultants owner Mark Reid said he fell victim after receiving an invoice from a Geraldton plumbing company several weeks ago.

“I opened the email and a link to a PDF file,” he said. “I saw it was for work we hadn’t done so I just disregarded it. I heard that they’d been hacked, and thought it was end of story.”

Mr Reid said about two weeks later his bookkeeper was emailed an invoice from a Karratha-based electrical contractor.

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“They’d actually sent that invoice to someone else, and somehow it had been intercepted and had our details put on it,” he said.

The unwitting bookkeeper then began receiving fraudulent emails that appeared to be from Mr Reid.

“She got an email that was supposedly from me, saying ‘pay the bill’, so she went off and paid what she could of it, which was thousands of dollars,” he said.

When Mr Reid realised what had happened, he went straight to the bank to check who the suspect account belonged to.

Staff told him the account was located in Melbourne, but nothing else.

He then went to his own bank, who told him the major fraud squad were investigating.

But Danni Bloomfield of Consumer Protection said Mr Reid had little chance of retrieving the money.

“Usually once the money hits the account on the other end, it’s withdrawn just as quickly,” she said.

Ms Bloomfield said scammers were becoming more cunning.

“These emails used to come from someone you didn’t know, so you were able to recognise it, but now they’re getting savvier,” she said.

Ms Bloomfield said one way to spot dodgy emails was to hover your mouse over the sender’s email address. If a different address appears, something is wrong.

“Don’t open any attachment you’re unsure of, because the consequences can be tragic,” she said.

“If any company that you deal with changes bank accounts, question it straight away and don’t automatically pay it.”

According to Consumer Protection statistics, 86 victims in WA lost $1.81 million in January this year.

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