Aileen Smidt evaded a recent phone scam.
Aileen Smidt evaded a recent phone scam. Mike Knott BUNSCM

Smart phone scheme

AN OVERSEAS organisation is targeting retired Bundaberg residents with a clever phone scam.

Aileen Smidt, 73, a retired business owner, said she received a call from a "very professional"-sounding man from "the government's reclaim department", saying the Commonwealth Bank had been overcharging fees to her account for years.

"He said they owed me $5248 and all I need to do is make a $190 Western Union money transfer to their lawyers and they will have a cheque delivered to me this afternoon," Mrs Smidt said.

"I had three different scams approach me in the last month, but they were fairly easy to see. But this one was much more savvy, very polished and clever. He guessed I banked at the Commonwealth Bank. I do have an account there.

"I have had an account there all my life."

Mrs Smidt said the man even gave her a specific number for the cheque that would be issued to her.

"He said for me to claim the cheque I was to ring 02 8005 7244 and speak to a Julie Johnson," she said.

Mrs Smidt, who was widowed more than 30 years ago, said she wanted to get the word out so retired people were not fooled.

"If I follow it through, then maybe it will stop," she said.

"They asked me for my date of birth, probably to use it later or sell the information."

Mrs Smidt called Crime Stoppers, who put her onto SCAMwatch, from whom she learned this was a common scam.

A spokesperson from SCAMwatch said telephone calls were often a preferred method of scam delivery, because they were cheap to use or freely available using voice-over-internet services.

"They also allow scammers to adopt a highly personalised approach, which can con more members of the public than an impersonal email," the spokesperson said.

"This technology means scammers are increasingly difficult to track down.

"Many phone numbers are not identifiable and many scammers operate outside of Australia, meaning that it is extremely hard for enforcement agencies to locate and prosecute offenders."

A SCAMwatch report notes a shift in the preferred mode of scam delivery from online in 2010 to unsolicited telephone calls in 2011. Australian scam losses reported totalled about $85.6 million in 2011, a 35% increase from 2010.

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