A 102-year-old woman has been cheated out of almost $375,000 after scammers intercepted emails about her care.
A 102-year-old woman has been cheated out of almost $375,000 after scammers intercepted emails about her care.

102-year-old woman scammed out of $375k

A "man in the middle" scam has cost a 102-year-old woman almost $375,000 that was intended to fund her aged care needs in Perth.

Nancy Pun's granddaughter Phoebe, who has power of attorney, had been arranging the transfer of money from the sale of Ms Pun's Ferndale home to an aged care facility through a settlement agent in January.

But the scammers intercepted emails between Phoebe and the aged care provider, then sent a fake email advising of a change of bank account details.

Phoebe shared the information with the settlement agent and the funds were sent to a Sydney bank account.

The family reported on Wednesday that they had received a return of about $168,000 - leaving a total loss of about $205,000.

It is unknown if further funds will be recovered, but NSW and WA Police are investigating.

Scammers have stolen about $375,000 that was intended to fund the aged care of 102-year-old Nancy Pun. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
Scammers have stolen about $375,000 that was intended to fund the aged care of 102-year-old Nancy Pun. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

Last year in WA, 39 people reported losing a total of about $753,000 to "payment redirection" scams.

So far this year, 16 people have lost a total of $450,000.

Consumer Protection commissioner Lanie Chopping said she was concerned by the rise of redirection scams, which often related to large property transactions.

"These scams involve the hacking into someone's email account or computer system, but it can be difficult to determine exactly where the hack has occurred," Ms Chopping said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The hackers may have successfully guessed the password or installed spyware or malware on computers or laptops after recipients open attachments or click on links in scam emails."

Ms Chopping said choosing a difficult-to-guess password and changing it often could reduce the risk. as well as not opening attachments or links in suspicious emails.

"We suspect another exposure may be the use of unsecured Wi-Fi connections, either at home or in public places, which may provide scammers with a window of opportunity to break in," she said.

"Especially with many people working from home at the moment, they need to ensure that a secured network is being used and they have up-to-date virus protection software."

The woman’s granddaughter was tricked by the scammers. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.
The woman’s granddaughter was tricked by the scammers. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

Other recent reports of payment redirection scams include:

  • November 2020: A woman purchasing a new vehicle online paid a fake invoice of $74,000;
  • December 2020: A couple who were first-home buyers lost $133,000 while purchasing a Piara Waters home after scammers cloned the settlement agent's email;
  • February 2021: Scammers intercepted a $20,000 deposit to a real estate agent for a commercial property in Burswood, but the buyer got their money back;
  • March 2021: A Kardinya property buyer lost $10,000 when scammers impersonated the settlement agent's email and redirected the money transfer.
The money was supposed to fund the woman’s aged care needs. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.
The money was supposed to fund the woman’s aged care needs. Picture: Supplied by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

Tips to protect against payment redirection scams:

  • Verify the sender of emails requesting payments or changing bank account details;
  • Call the sender to confirm the authenticity of the request using previously known contact numbers or find out with an internet search;
  • Do not use contact details in the email as they may be fake;
  • When responding to emails, manually type the address or select it from your address book;
  • If possible, go to the trader's office to verify the details before completing the transfer;
  • Consider setting up multi-factor authentication on all online accounts.

Originally published as 102yo woman scammed out of $375k



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