SCAMMERS have netted almost $110,000 from West Australian Facebook users duped into thinking they had won lotto.
The masterminds behind the scam use cloned Facebook accounts with stolen images to send messages to friends of that account, encouraging them to claim lottery prizes worth between $150,000 and $300,000.
The catch is that victims must first pay thousands of dollars in supposed fees and taxes of up to $16,000 before they can cash in on the fake lotto win.
Since April, WA ScamNet has received reports from 18 people claiming to have lost a total of almost $110,000.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said individual losses had escalated in recent weeks with three people saying they have lost between $14,000 and $16,000 each.
The scammers present themselves as a “friend” on Facebook who has won lots of money, and tell the victim that their name is also on a list of lotto winners.
The victim is then given a link to a fake Facebook page of an “agent” who collects the fees and a fake website which displays a list of beneficiaries.
They are then sent tracking information from a fake transport company.
Mr Hillyard said one victim became suspicious when the “transport company” advised that the delivery truck had been in an accident in Collie and that they must now pay for a private driver and bodyguard to deliver the funds.
A photo of the damaged truck was even sent as evidence.
Mr Hillyard said the scammers relied on the idea that a Facebook message from a trusted friend would be less likely to be questioned than a random message from an unknown person.
“The victims tell us that they went along with the sting because they thought the message was from a real friend, giving the whole scenario some legitimacy in the minds of those being targeted,” Mr Hillyard said.
“We have been successful in getting the fake Facebook pages and websites shut down, but they just pop up again using different names and the highly lucrative scam continues to claim more victims.
“We encourage Facebookers to be aware of this scam and to question any communication which involves unexpected prizes and the upfront payment of fees. Contact the “friend” outside of social media sites and verify if it is indeed them sending the messages.”
Mr Hillyard advised peopel not to reply to or follow any links in the messages.
“Just hit delete and block the sender – there are no real Facebook lotteries or beneficiary lists.”
He urged people to spread the word among family and friends and share on social media so other people were not sucked into the scam.