E-Scams – Protect yourself & your Business from Scam operators!

August 20, 2009

Every year many Australians are tricked by scam operators and hard earned money are lost to fraudsters. Consumer Affairs Victoria published a media release in recent years urging consumers to be on the lookout for Victoria’s Top Five Scams:

1. The fax-back fraud

The Story: Fraudsters send unsolicited faxes advertising diets, employment opportunities or modeling work. Consumers are asked to respond by completing and returning the fax to a 1900 number.

The Consequence: The form and/or application contain large amounts of black ink and hence is timely to transmit (transmission is at a rate of approximately $5.50 per minute). The fax can often take up to 10 minutes to complete, so consumers may be billed for up to fifty-five ($55.00) or sometimes more for the fax transmission.

2. The Nigerian Con

The Story: A stranger contacts the consumer (by email, fax, letter or otherwise) requesting help to transfer money out of a country, such as Nigeria. The consumer is asked to pay a handling fee and/or to provide bank account details. In compensation for the consumer’s efforts, the stranger offers a cut of the proceeds.

The Consequence: Money is taken from the consumer’s account.

3. “Work from Home”, Envelope Stuffing Scheme

The Story: Fraudsters advertise in self-employment opportunities columns in local papers offering work for ‘stuffing envelopes’. Consumers are asked to provide money upfront to obtain the work.

The Consequence: The promised work never eventuates, and all the consumer receives is a useless set of instructions.

4. Overseas Lotteries / Sweepstakes and Prize Award Scams

The Story: Consumers receive an official-looking letter advising that they have won a prize. Consumers are then asked to pay a processing fee in order to claim their prize money or lottery win. One notorious example of this scam claims affiliation with the genuine El Gordo Spanish Lottery.

The Consequence: The Consumer pays the processing fee but the prize money or lottery win cannot be claimed.

5. Clairvoyant Scams

The Story: The fraudster sends a ‘personalised’ letter to the consumer requesting that they send an initial amount of money (usually $40 – $80) to a PO Box and to sign a form to release confidential and personal information. The consumers are then asked to send more money to receive ‘special’ clairvoyant products or services.

The Consequence: The ‘special’ clairvoyant products or services are never supplied or are of little value.

Possible scam warning signs as highlighted by Consumer Affairs Victoria include: promises of instant wealth, up front payments, details or payment to be sent to PO Boxes, false statistics, request for personal details, testimonials that cannot be checked, competitions that the consumers do not recall entering, claims that the product has caused a ‘sensation’ overseas, claims that cheques will not be banked unless the consumer is completely satisfied with the product.

6. “Black Paper” Scams

The first case of the Black Paper scam has appeared in Melbourne; this was reported by the Age on 26 August 2009.

The Story: The fraudster posed as a prospective buyer of the consumer’s business to initiate contact with the consumer. He persuaded the consumer to believe that he was the son of a leader of a political party in Sierra Leone and that his father had sent him $5 million through the American embassy. The fraudster proceeded to put the victim’s $50 note between two pieces of black paper which he placed in a plastic bag. He poured dark liquid into the bag and then he trod on the bag. The fraudster waited two minutes before he poured a clear liquid onto the papers producing two $50 notes along with the man’s original note.

The fraudster produced a ‘top secret’ document printed on US embassy letterhead which detailed that the ‘chemical’ cost was $100,000.00, and explained that providers of aid money to countries in crisis covered the money in black solution to ensure its correct use. The consumer exchanged $120,000.00 in cash for black paper money to be cleaned.

The Consequence: The consumer found that his cash was replaced with a briefcase full of worthless ‘black paper money’.

Additional information on scams can be found at:

If you are interested in finding out more about scams we have a booklet available titled ‘The Little Black Book of Scams’. Please contact us at office@hutchinsonlegal.com.au to arrange a copy.

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