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mechanicsScam targeting vehicle repairers

Motor vehicle repairers in WA are being targeted by scammers who send an email requesting work to be carried out on a car and will go on to ask the business to pay a towing company on their behalf.

Vehicle repairers have reported the scam to Consumer Protection and unfortunately one business sent the scammers $5,000 via the wire transfer service Western Union.

How the scam works is that the sender of the email claims to be hearing impaired and gives this as a reason why they cannot communicate via phone. We have reports of the scammers using the National Relay Service (NRS) – a telephone service provided to the hearing impaired – in order to give contact to the business an air of legitimacy. They may also pretend to be undergoing medical treatment for their hearing disability and claim this is preventing them from leaving the hospital to bring the car or pay the towing company.

In some cases the scammer may claim to be based interstate but about to relocate to WA. In these instances they may ask for help to pay a shipping company rather than a towing company. Invariably they will make excuses about why they cannot speak on the phone.

After making initial contact to request vehicle repair work, the scammer will offer to pay money via a credit card (usually stolen card details). They will ask the business to take an amount as a deposit to secure services and extra to cover the cost of the payment to the towing or shipping company e.g. $500 deposit and $1800 for the towing or shipping company.

The business will be asked to pay the fictitious towing or shipping company by wire transfer – an electronic payment system which is virtually untraceable and often used by scammers.

If the business becomes embroiled in the scam they will likely receive fake emails from the non-existent towing or shipping company. Phone numbers may be given but if called no doubt the scammers will answer quoting the name of the bogus towing or shipping company.

The NRS has strategies in place to identify and contain attempts to make scam calls through their service. These are regularly reviewed to respond to any change in trends.

WA ScamNet’s advice to businesses:

  • Never pay money via wire transfer to help a customer access the goods or services you are selling.
  • Be cautious when dealing with overseas or interstate orders – independently verify who you are dealing with before sending money or goods. If doubtful do not proceed with the order. Be sceptical if normal banking processes are not available.
  • When accepting a credit card payment check with the card issuer for authorisation to avoid accepting stolen credit card details.

It would be a good idea to read WA ScamNet’s previous warning about this type of scam.