Posted on 05. May, 2010 in News

Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson today warned Victoria’s Chinese community to watch out for a phone scam offering fake prizes that can only be redeemed for thousands of dollars. 

Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking scammers are cold-calling Victorians with Chinese names, claiming to represent companies in Hong Kong and offering to enter people into a prize draw if they participate in a survey.

Later, the scammers call back to tell you that you have won a prize.  However, to claim it, you have to pay an up-front fee of thousands of dollars via wire transfer, to cover so-called ‘expenses’ such as tax payments to the Hong Kong Government.

In one case, a Chinese international student received a call from a scammer claiming to represent a Hong Kong-based electronics company. The consumer was told she had won $150,000. To collect her money, she was instructed to pay $4,500 in advance to cover taxes and a further $5,800 currency exchange fee, which she did, through a Western Union wire transfer.

Other consumers have also been asked to supply personal details, such as a copy of their driver’s licence, bank account details and credit card numbers.

Mr Robinson said Victoria’s Chinese community needed to be aware of scams so they wouldn’t be taken in by bogus get rich quick schemes, lotteries and prize draws.

“The Brumby Labor Government is standing up for all Victorians by making sure they can identify scams and protect themselves so they don’t lose their hard earned money or become victims of identity fraud,” he said.

“Scams often look and sound genuine.  But don’t be fooled – never send money or give credit card or personal details to anyone you do not know and trust.

“Scams come in many forms and scammers will try and contact you by mail, telephone, over the internet and by just knocking on your door.

“Always remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Mr Robinson urged Chinese Victorians to look out for family and friends by alerting them to this scam, especially if English is not their first language.

“Most scammers are part of organised criminal gangs based overseas. Once you send money overseas, it is extremely difficult to retrieve and the scammers are difficult to identify, catch and prosecute,” he said.

“In the end, the only people who making money from these so-called lotteries, prize draws and get-rich-quick schemes are the fraudsters trying to scam you.”

Mr Robinson said there were a few simple steps Chinese Victorians could take to protect themselves from this kind of scam: 

  • Hang up on telemarketers asking for up-front fees for large cash prizes
  • Don’t respond immediately to any offers or deals. Stop and take time to check they are genuine
  • Ignore letters or emails announcing you have won large cash prizes
  • Never provide personal details or transfer money to a company or person you do not know and trust

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) also has a Chinese helpline which can provide further information in Mandarin and Cantonese.  Please telephone freecall 1300 726 656 for further assistance.

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