The Christmas cards were a bit skinny on cash this year for one family I know, on account of one member having lost $2000 on Google Play cards, under instructions from a thief.
Yes, we’ve all heard of that scam, you say. But not everyone actually has heard of it. And the people who haven’t are probably the most vulnerable – older folks who are likely to believe that if a caller is from “Telstra” or “Westpac” with “Google cards” then they’re probably trustworthy.
It started in November. “Dan from Telstra” called the late-70s grandmother, warning there had been some heightened activity on her phone line, maybe it’s hackers.
It didn’t surprise her the voice was Indian, as she was used to maddening hours on the phone to subcontinental call centres to deal with Telstra or whoever.
Just download this little program so we can access your computer and we’ll fix it, he told her. She did. Now show me how you log into your bank account so I can check it.
A week later he called back – we need your help. We’ve caught two of the hackers but there’s one left. We need to track him with Google Play cards. Go to Coles and buy $2000 worth of them. She thought something was fishy, but she just wanted it over. And she didn’t know that now Google Play cards are the currency of scammers.
Up at the local Coles there were flyers at the counter warning of this exact scam. But that didn’t stop them selling her the cards. She said they were for family. No more questions were asked.
Only $50 Google cards were available. So she bought 40 of them. Her bank card had a $500 maximum so it took four transactions.
When “Dan” called back she gave him the cash codes from each card.
It’s an organised crime, perpetrated out of organised Indian call centres – 24 people were recently sentenced for exactly this scam on US citizens.
We saw her after Christmas. There in the bag with the cards were the flyers Coles gives away, warning of the scam. Yep, they sold her 10 Google Play cards, for $500, then another 10 for $500, then another 10 for $500, then another 10 for $500.
And after taking the elderly lady’s money, four times over, the Coles staff gave her a flyer warning about a Google Play scam hitting elderly people. Like a bonus gift for spending her card’s maximum.
All care and no responsibility.
Retailers, let’s get real. You know Google cards are the currency of scammers. You know the problems and you need to ask more questions – such as: Ma’am, do you know what these cards are for?