AN unsolicited magazine is in your letterbox, all glossy holiday and travel information, and with it, a couple of ‘scratchie” cards to try your luck.
You scratch them to reveal a prize of $US190,0000.
It sounds too good to be true. And it is.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning that the travel scratchie scam is at best leaving Australians exposed to weeks of harassing phone calls and manipulation. At worst, it’s costing them cash.
The fake travel brochure scratchie scam isn’t new, but it’s resurfaced recently in Australia in a number of guises, and is operated by a series of fraudulent companies.
In Sydney, fake travel brochures and scratchies from a dodgy company called Sweet Summer Tour are currently doing the rounds, purporting to be a promotion to celebrate the company’s 13 years in business.
The company lists a variety of well-known brands as “official partners” in the competition including the likes of IT giant Seagate and TripAdvisor, but the ACCC is urging seniors not to be fooled by the fact that packaging features legitimate logos.
Belinda Wrigley admits she was almost taken in by the brochure from Malaysia which she found in her letterbox, especially when she scratched a $US190,000 win.
“It looked legitimate. It was very professionally presented. Then we started to look into it and the alarm bells started to ring,” she told Fairfax.
They rang louder when she discovered the company’s website was only new, despite it claiming to have been in business for more than a decade. The terms and conditions of the scratchie card were also a worry, noting winners would have to “submit taxes or any other mandatory charges as a result of the award”.
In the ACT, there has been multiple scam reports, all regarding companies pretending to be Malaysian-based travel operators, with company names including Two Princess Tour, Southern Princess Holiday and White Winter Vacation.
One Canberra woman who tried her luck on the unsolicited magazine knew something was amiss when she called to collect her winnings from the scratchie, she told the ABC.
The person who answered the phone said she needed to pay a charge of several hundred dollars to be able to collect her prizemoney.
The scammer also wanted her bank details. When the woman asked why the charge couldn’t just be taken from her winnings, and refused to disclose her bank details, she said the person on the end of the phone became aggressive.
She told them she didn’t want the prize and to cancel it. She said they continued to call her for a month.
The ACCC said the scams mostly involved two scratchies received in the mail. One claims to offer “winnings”. The other usually reads “thank you”.
Scratchie scams are one of the most common tricks used by con artists worldwide, usually in the form of fake scratchie cards that promise some sort of prize, on the condition that the ‘winner’ pays a collection fee, according to the ACCC website.