A dad from Sydney thought he was starting a new job.  But the failure to red flag led to the loss of his life savings

A dad from Sydney thought he was starting a new job. But the failure to red flag led to the loss of his life savings

A father in Sydney thought he was starting a new job working from home, but he was being manipulated by his family’s life savings – more than $ 80,000 – in just two days.

He was introduced to a fake employer and added to a WhatsApp group full of fake coworkers, all working together on an elaborate scam – a scam that according to the ACCC is all too common.

The Marsden Park family were so embarrassed by their loss that they asked to remain anonymous – their real names have been omitted from this article to respect their privacy.

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Gasoline franchisee owner John, 48, was looking for some extra cash to pay his bills as he attempted to sell his business which, due to pandemic-related impacts and a new highway diverting trucks and traffic, it is no longer profitable.

His children Nick, 19, and Kathleen, 21, both study full-time and his wife Carol doesn’t work, which means John is the only income for his family.

“We didn’t have any income, we needed a way to get the money in, so we were a little desperate,” Nick told 7NEWS.com.au.

When John saw a job opportunity appear on Facebook on August 24 with the option to work overtime and online, he didn’t think twice before clicking.

The announcement prompted him to get in touch with Venus, a fake employer at a Melbourne-based e-marketing company, who added John to a WhatsApp group chat full of fake employees.

The ACCC told 7NEWS.com.au that it has received more than 300 reports of similar scams this year alone, recording losses of over $ 1 million.

A fake employer and a group of fake coworkers manipulated John into transferring all of his family’s life savings within days. Credit: Provided

A spokesperson for the ACCC told 7NEWS.com.au: “These scams are a mix of directly claiming to be legitimate companies and / or claiming to work with legitimate companies.”

Venus told John that her click-for-commission role worked by following online shopping movements, ostensibly to artificially inflate online traffic stats. The job required an online wallet, which emptied quickly and Venus saw it as a computer problem.

John was transferred to a fake customer service contact who started instructing him to deposit his money into his wallet, claiming he could later withdraw it, along with his commission, once the job was done.

He was given various account numbers to transfer his funds by the thousands and saw his online wallet appearing to “recharge”.

Over the course of the two days, Venus reassured him that this technical difficulty was normal, while the “colleagues” WhatsApp group chat posted false receipts for their deposits and withdrawals, pretending that similar problems had been solved for them.

Within days, the work was done and John’s online wallet apparently contained the $ 86,000 he had deposited, plus the commission he had earned, but when he went to withdraw it, it decreased.

A fake customer service agent convinced John to make a large number of wire transfers, ranging from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands. Credit: Provided

John and Carol moved to Australia from India 15 years ago and English is not their first language.

The ACCC said that of the hundreds of Australians similarly scammed this year, the scams “have disproportionately affected members of culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALDs).”

“Overall, more than 13% of the losses ($ 9.6 million) from investment scams came from people who spoke English as a second language,” the ACCC said.

Nick told 7NEWS.com.au: “We were vulnerable at the time and we were exploited.

“(Dad) didn’t know how vulnerable people could be on the Internet, how people could manipulate you or emotionally control you to make you give away your entire life savings.

“It was my sister who pointed this out and said ‘Oh, this seems a little rough'”, after her father’s withdrawal request was denied and he was told to upgrade his service – for an additional $ 30,000 – if he wanted to access his money.

By this time, John had drained his own family’s savings, as well as borrowing and depositing $ 30,000 from a friend who hadn’t asked about the work-related loan.

“Ever since I moved to Australia… whatever financial hardship I’ve faced, I’ve never asked anyone for a single dollar. This is the first time I’ve borrowed money from my friends, ”John told 7NEWS.com.au.

“It is a great burden on my heart”.

Asked how the family is doing right now, Nick told 7NEWS.com.au: “We’re not.”

All family members are now desperate for work. They opened a GoFundMe page to try to cover their losses, in an attempt to repay the mortgage, pay living expenses, and ultimately pay off their friend.

Gold Coast evaluates the investigation as the homeowner overloaded thousands of people.

Gold Coast evaluates the investigation as the homeowner overloaded thousands of people.

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