Cancer victim’s bank account drained by scammers

Rockhampton pensioner and cancer victim Jeni Lee’s life has been turned upside down after scammers drained every last cent out of her bank account on Thursday.

Ms Lee, who has cancer and a heart condition, said she was preparing to move south to Armidale next week with her dog Boof, but now doesn’t have a dollar to her name and is unsure how she will even afford a bottle of milk and food for her dog, let alone paying her bills or moving interstate.

Ms Lee said she started getting calls from what turned out to be scammers, who claimed to be from her phone provider Telstra’s cyber security team, on Wednesday to report that her account had been hacked.

“They claimed they were shutting my internet down as it was hacked. I demanded that they give me their names and what were they doing,” she said.

“They gave a telephone number of which all were disconnected. One claimed his name was Austin Benedict another Wilson Limg; both claimed they were from Sri Lanka. One gave me an employee number.

“All claimed they were working for Telstra as technicians through a company called Cyber Security. They claimed that my internet was being hacked and set out to confuse me.

“In the end – I was told to supply my debit card number and bank details as they were going to run diagnostics on my internet.

“They kept in my opinion playing games, I kept telling them to ask a person who could speak clearer English to speak to me – this did not occur. They kept asking me to repeat everything.

“They managed to totally clean me out.”

Ms Lee said she had nothing left and was unsure how she was going to live.

“Where am I going to get the money to eat? I only just got paid my pension on Wednesday. I need to pay my rent and bills. They took $3200,” she said.

“I am in an extremely bad way. This money taken out of my bank account has left me without any funds whatsoever and to the extent that I didn’t have any moneys to buy food tonight, so neither my dog or I will have food to eat tonight.

“I have no husband, lover, sugar daddy or friend to fall back on.”

Ms Lee said what made the blow even more bitter was that she had only just been returned more than $2000 that was stolen from her last year.

Ms Lee has contacted the Australian Federal Police, and Telstra, to report the scam, but she wants others in the community to be aware scammers are targeting people in Rockhampton.

In emails with Ms Lee sighted by The Morning Bulletin, Telstra confirmed it had investigated and Austin Benedict and Wilson Limg were not employees of Telstra and were perpetrating a scam.

“These scammers will make hundreds of calls per day looking for someone to allow them access to the computer,” the email to Ms Lee read.

“Telstra will never ask for payment to remediate a computer issue.”

Ms Lee is working to contact her bank and local police.

A Telstra spokesperson said the organisation took these matters very seriously.

“In February we announced that we are doubling down on efforts to address scam calls and are now blocking around 6.5 million suspected scam calls a month on average from reaching end customers,” the spokesperson said.

“We know that scammers sometimes try to impersonate Telstra. As a reminder, if Telstra is legitimately calling customers, we will only call between 9am–8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am–3pm Saturday wherever they are based, and not on a Sunday.

“The exception to this is if they have an unpaid account or a customer-initiated inquiry with respect to an order, fault or complaint – if so, someone from Telstra may call them outside of these hours. We will also never ask for control of their computer in an unsolicited call either.

“If customers think they are receiving a scam call, they should just hang up, and if they’re not sure about whether they’re speaking to a real business or a scammer, take their details and say you’ll call them back.

“Whatever you do, don’t provide personal information or bank account information to anyone who you weren’t expecting a call from or don’t know – regardless of who they say they are.”

Helpful advice for Telstra customers on how to spot a scam call can be found here. 

The ACCC’s Scamwatch reports scammers often catch out people by impersonating well-known businesses or the police so they can get access to computers and steal money or banking information.

Scammers will impersonate a well-known company, most commonly Telstra, NBN or Microsoft, or even the police, and spin you a very credible and believable story about why they need to access your computer using software such as TeamViewer.

“The scammers are becoming more sophisticated. The old trick scammers used to use was to call people and say there was a virus on their computer that needed fixing but, in a new twist, scammers are now telling people they need their help to catch hackers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

So far in 2021, Scamwatch reports $63,136,741 has been lost to scammers in Australia.

To report a scam, click here.

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