Reported scams tricking unsuspecting targets into handing over sometimes large amounts of money through iTunes vouchers doubled in Western Australia last year, with authorities issuing a warning for people to be on the lookout.
Consumer Protection said 34 scam victims purchased iTunes cards worth a total of $116,909 in 2017, compared to 17 victims reporting losses totalling $68,637 in 2016.
The cold call scammers pretend they are from Telstra or the Australian Taxation Office and tell their targets they must pay an outstanding debt urgently, repay a credit that has appeared in their bank account or assist in catching a hacker who has accessed their bank account.
They are then insisting the victims use iTunes gift cards as their preferred method of payment.
One recent victim lost $11,300 after purchasing iTunes gift cards from Coles and Woolworths stores as part of a scam.
Colin, 89, bought $1,000 worth of iTunes cards when contacted from someone pretending to be a "Telstra security agent".
"They suggested they would deposit $4,000 into my bank account, at the same time they asked for access to my computer and I was gullible enough to believe them and gave them access," said Colin, who did not want his last name used.
The scammers transferred the money from one account to another and told Colin to repay it by purchasing $3,000 in iTunes cards.
"I went and bought $1,000 of iTunes cards from one of the stores, then I tried Big W and they advised me there was a scam on and they wouldn't sell me any more cards."
Colin was then told to transfer cash via a service station via MoneyGram.
"It was only when I told one of my daughters, she said, 'Dad you've been scammed'."
Colin said he no longer trusts any phone call where there is a few seconds of silence followed by a voice with a foreign accent.
Grandson sounded scam warning
Jacques, 75, was alerted to a scam attempt by his grandson after someone called pretending to be from Telstra and saying they needed to fix his computer.
Jacques, who did not want his surname published, said his 14-year-old grandson told him it was a scam, but he still bought $3,000 worth of cards.
The scammer told him they were the wrong cards, but when he went back to Big W to buy more he saw a sign about the scams.
Consumer Protection Minister Bill Johnston said retailers could do more to guard against the scams, by enforcing a policy of "per customer limits" on iTunes gift card sales and educating their staff to question unusual and expensive purchases.
Romance scams down
What to do if you get a call like this:
- Hang up
- Don't respond to numbers supplied in an automated call
- Delete any messages left on voicemail
- Speak to someone you trust about the scam call
Overall losses to scams reported to Consumer Protection in 2017 dropped to $8.06 million from $9.03 million in 2016, but the number of victims increased to 398 from 372 the previous year.
While there was a doubling of losses from employment and investment scams in 2017, the losses from dating and romance scams halved — from $4.1 million to $2.03 million.
Mr Johnston said the reduction in romance scams indicated the information campaigns had worked.
"It is good to see the decline in romance scams but there's always some new criminal element looking for some advantage over people so this is now the next wave, this iTunes scam, so we need to work hard to reduce that activity as well," he said.