A real estate agency is believed to have lost more than $50,000 in an elaborate scheme involving stolen credit cards and a fictitious wedding.
According to Consumer Protection Western Australia, the unnamed Perth agency received a call from a supposed Englishman requesting a week’s accommodation for an eight-person wedding party.
The man provided the name ‘Colonel Michael Warner’, which is a name well known to Consumer Protection as one that is commonly used by Nigerian-based scammers.
The scammers paid a large deposit for the accommodation using what were believed to be several stolen American credit cards and then requested the agency forward the funds to a Greek interpreter who couldn’t accept credit card payments.
Funds were also sent back to ‘Colonel Warner’ before the agency realised the credit card transactions had not been deposited into a trust account.
Acting commissioner for consumer protection David Hillyard said while an investigation is being carried out into this particular case, other real estate agents and accommodation providers should be aware of this "overpayment" scam and exercise caution.
“It has become a common scam for accommodation bookings to be made either by phone or email using false or stolen credit card details and a payment greater than the amount payable is then supposedly made,” he said.
“The scammers then request the excess amount to be refunded immediately, but usually by wire transfer or to a different account.”
Mr Hillyard said the best advice for businesses is to do a bit of simple online research first.
“Be extremely cautious if someone who is making accommodation bookings pays too much or pays extra so that funds can be transferred to a third party,” he said.