Police crime investigation officers across the south-west are being swamped with cyber scam cases involving up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Raven, of the Warrnambool police crime investigation unit, said his squad had received another five cases from Federal Government agency Reportcyber in the past few days.
He said the scams fell into three distinctive groups - business email compromises, crypto currency investments and unauthorised access to accounts.
The business email compromises often involve businesses receiving an email, for example to buy a tractor worth more than $100,000.
An hour later there's an email from the tractor supplier explaining they are undergoing an audit or something similar and to transfer payment to new bank details.
The money is transferred and the scam is only discovered when the tractor business does not receive the payment.
"If members of the public receive an email and they're not sure about it, or it seems odd, pick up the phone and call the business," Detective Sergeant Raven said.
"In the majority of cases, once the transfer is complete there's no getting the money back."
Crypto currency investments promise lots but deliver little or nothing, with losses on current cases up to $300,000.
"People go into these investments thinking there's significant money to be made," Detective Sergeant Raven said.
"In the initial stages there may be a small return, but then there's a loss and the investor is then left chasing their losses.
"People running these scams are very reassuring. The initial investment return is to build trust but the deeper the investor gets in, the more they try to recoup their losses.
"The losses can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and often involve bitcoin trading.
"There seems to be a glimmer of hope the investor can recoup their losses but it doesn't happen. The chats and scams can go on for months."
The investigator said unauthorised access scams sometimes involved pop-ups on computer screens that people clicked on.
"It might be a pop-up for what purports to be Microsoft asking a computer user to download an application," Detective Sergeant Raven said.
"There may be a request for the computer user to call their bank and increase their limit to buy a motorbike or car.
"The victim is asked not to touch their screen to make a transfer to someone at an agency like Telstra through a regular money transfer system to the account of a mule, which may be in that person's account for seconds before being bounced overseas."
Detective Sergeant Raven said Australian-based mule's were often the victim of romance scams or something similar as a way to facilitate the transfer of money.
"Cyber crime and scams are now a major part of the work of crime investigation unit detectives statewide," he said.
"It's crime that is largely preventable if people take action to protect themselves.
"Don't click on pop-ups, always check if someone's bank details have changed and if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
"Warn family members, especially elderly or vulnerable people about scams. Be extra vigilant because those who are not aware are losing their money - often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - and once it's gone a victim will never see it again."
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