How an international money transfer scam targeted Lynne’s small business
Lynne runs a bed and breakfast in South Australia. Shortly after opening in 2005, Lynne was pleased to receive a booking request from Indonesia. The request came via Lynne’s website and claimed to be from a travel agency in Kuta, Bali. They wanted to book a two-week stay for two couples, their ‘Japanese clients’.
Emails were sent back and forth over some weeks to organise details and costs. The travel agent didn't seem to mind what dates were available and they didn't hesitate to agree to the first price offered by Lynne. The travel agent from Bali even agreed to pay the full amount in advance with their Japanese client’s credit card. They asked what there was to see in the area, but didn't appear very interested in any details.
Lynne suggested that the Japanese couples pay via PayPal, but the travel agent claimed they couldn't use it, and instead sent the Japanese couples’ credit card details via email. When Lynne tried to process the booking, the credit card transaction was declined by the bank.
Lynne said ‘in hindsight, the most suspicious factor was that the supposed travel agent wanted the Japanese clients to pay us the total amount, and then wanted us to pass on the commission to the agent’.
The scammers had used credit card details stolen from Japanese tourists who had been travelling in Bali. They were hoping that Lynne would send the ‘commission’ to them following their fake booking.
‘It was interesting how elaborate the whole scheme was. Some of the emails from the scammers pretending to be from the Japanese couple were lengthy and spoke more about themselves and their relationship with the travel agent, trying to justify their connection’ said Lynne.
Ultimately, Lynne didn’t lose money to the scam, but there are plenty of small businesses around that may have.