Money. Minimalism. Motherhood.
Savvy tips to help you save money, declutter your home, spend time outdoors and thrive in your season.

How I Took On A Scammer… And Won

Time to get back at the scammers

With scam messages on the rise, I decided that it was time to take one of them on for myself.

I’ve always enjoyed annoying people. Arguing. Having an opinion. When I was growing up, my mother often said that I should be a ‘politician for deaf people.’ I was always arguing about something and always spoke too loud. Not much has changed.

I like taking on a challenge. I like being a voice. I write letters to members of parliament. I had a press conference at my house and met the Premier (my son even made him a coffee!). I wrote a letter to the Health Minister and was asked to provide feedback at hospital department meetings. I was on governing council for kindy and school.

If I see an area for change or sense injustice, I want to do something about it.

Like many of us, I started to notice an increase in scam activity late last year. I received text messages from Amazon or Australia Post, saying that my package had been delayed. I was told that I was late paying a bill. I was notified that I had a fine to pay.

These were more annoying than anything. They appeared to be obviously scams, at least to my eyes. They were irritating and constant, but I could delete them and move on.

Then the messages ramped up even more. Pretending to be a relative.

This started to frustrate me. How dare the scammers prey on innocent victims, many of whom are older, less tech-savvy and tend to take things at face value. How these hardworking people might think someone that they loved needed their help. They wouldn’t even think to question it and potentially be thousands of dollars out of pocket. If they aren’t already struggling with the ever-rising cost of living, they would most certainly be affected after.

It made me sick.

How could you live with yourself, knowing that you were responsible for causing havoc on people’s lives? I certainly know that I couldn’t.

The trouble is, it’s not just older folk who are falling for it. Stories are emerging of young people, switched-on professionals who also succumb to the scammers’ tricks. Their techniques are becoming more sophisticated. When we are busy and stressed, we are more likely to skim-read and miss the otherwise obvious red flags.

According to Scam Watch, Australians lost over 568 million dollars to scams in the year 2022 alone. It is a worrying statistic and it is hard to fathom the numbers.

Unsure if something is a scam?

If you are unsure whether something is a scam or not, always stop and wait. Never agree to anything on the spot. Don’t transfer money to someone, even if they are insistent.

Don’t give away personal information such as your name, date of birth or location. Never give out your Medicare or Driver’s license number or bank details.

If they ask you to confirm your details, ask for their number so you can call them back. If it is a legit company, the number they provide will connect you to their business line.

If you have a bad gut instinct, it probably is a scam. Go with your gut.

Ask someone trustworthy for their help. Someone who is good with computers and online stuff. You can seek help or report scams to the ACCC via ScamWatch

If you have been scammed, you can attempt to recover your money. It isn’t always possible but worth a shot.

A few years back we were booking accommodation for a holiday (I’d won a trip to America). Somehow while using our debit card online to book various places, scammers managed to copy the details. I began noticing random amounts withdrawn from our account. I questioned hubby who didn’t know anything about it.

We eventually figured out that someone was using our card details remotely to scam us. We contacted our bank and they were excellent. They locked the card, put in a report and traced the money. We got back every cent. We were so grateful and knew we were lucky. This isn’t always the case.

I almost fell for one.

A few years back we listed our caravan for sale. It had been sitting unused for years and we weren’t sure when we would have time to fix it up. I convinced hubby that we didn’t need it. It was no longer sparking joy and we could declutter it from our lives.

I listed it on Gumtree. Before long, I had received over a dozen messages. One fellow, in particular, was very keen. So keen, in fact, that he asked me to email him instead, citing a reason that seemed genuine enough. ‘Robert’ told me that he would buy but only on the condition that I remove that ad. It seemed a bit weird but I assumed that he just really wanted the caravan.

It got a little weirder. Robert started talking about how the caravan was for his son who was in the airforce. He was away on training interstate so wouldn’t be able to pick it up but would organise a freight company to transport it to him. I told hubby who agreed it sounded a little strange, then shrugged and remarked, ‘well if he wants to pay for it, that’s his choice.’

Then the focus turned to money. Robert then sent a different email about how the money would be sent to me. It was long and complicated with numerous steps involved. There was red and black text with underlines. I was confused. For some reason, I had to transfer money ($2000) for the payments on his end to go through. He wanted me to use an app I had never heard of before.

I didn’t get why I had to transfer any funds if he was the one buying. When I asked, he had an answer. Although I didn’t fully understand his logic, he was confident and convincing.

At the time, I was lying next to my toddler to get him to sleep. Robert kept messaging. Now he seemed to be quite impatient. Every few minutes or so, he would reply to ask if I had sent the money yet. He became aggressive and asked me to tell him when I had done it.

Once I could sneak out of my son’s room, I went to show hubby the messages. At once he could see them for what they were – a complete scam. I was dumfounded. Yes, they had started getting stranger but I had failed to see what he could.

Afterwards, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. I couldn’t believe that the scammer had almost got me. How did that even happen?

In hindsight, it was obvious that the messages were a scam. The long-winded replies, the back stories, not answering questions properly, payments needing to be via different platforms or apps and oh-so-complicated. In the heat of the moment though, I was suckered in.

I was there from the start. Robert seemed like a normal buyer. I didn’t suspect a scam so I wasn’t looking for one. I didn’t have my detective or analytical glasses on. I was just an exhausted mother, sleep-deprived and pregnant, who needed a day in bed rather than dealing with people wanting to buy a caravan.

It really can happen to anyone.

This time around, I wanted to have some fun and waste the scammers’ time. I figured that if they were replying back and forward to me, they might have less time to engage with other people. I knew that it wouldn’t create any actual change or stop what they were doing,

I thought maybe it would entertain and educate people about the dangers of scammers, and that anyone can be targeted.

A Warning.

I would like to give a warning. These scammers can be dangerous. While their tactics are super dodgy and the lowlife behaviour could be likened to the disgusting green algae often present on our River Torrens, they are not to be messed with. Leave that to the experts.*

If you want to have some fun with the scammer, by all means, go for it. Just do it safely.

Don’t give personal details or information away.

Know when to stop and don’t take it too far.

Screenshot, naturally, then report and block.

Here is the conversation that took place just before Christmas last year. Enjoy.

Have you fallen for a scammer or have you had some fun with them too?

I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below or on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

* Sorry Adelaide City Council, I shouldn’t really liken low-level scammers to the algae in your River Torrens. That’s not very fair. After all, it’s not really algae anyway. Duckweed is far superior and quite wonderful to look at after all. The slimy green covering over the water is a real boost for tourists who come into our fine city. It is a unique talking point in the photos that they show back to their families at home. I apologise in advance for anyone that I offend through the mention of this. Not to worry though. I’m sure no one will even read this. Well maybe just the Adelaide Mail. They like this sort of thing.

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