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New scam targets Australian wine industry

By Bede Doherty

The infamous 419 scam is alive and well and appears to have surfaced in the wine industry in Australia. The 419 scam, also known as the “Nigerian scam”, is named after the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with “Obtaining property by false pretences”. The confidence tricksters, who are not necessarily Nigerian, appeal to a victim for some sort of assistance or sale but require the victim to first make a deposit of funds into a nominated overseas bank account or a supposed third party for some trumped-up reason. After the payment is made, the tricksters disappear!

The way it works in its wine industry incarnation is that an overseas buyer (the trickster) asks to buy a consignment of wine from a winery, offers to pay by credit card and asks for the freight charges to be paid – by the winery – to a freight company’s bank account overseas. Since the consignment is quite a few cases, the air-freight bill can run to thousands of dollars.

In practice, the credit card number is stolen or copied and the overseas freight company does not exist, except for a bank account.

A Victorian winery recently approached Bede Doherty & Associates (“BD&A) — who specialise in exporting to the Chinese and Taiwanese markets — for assistance after receiving such an enquiry from a buyer, supposedly resident in Taiwan. The freight company nominated for payment by the “customer” was based in London. BD&A did some checking and confirmed that the freight company did not exist. It was also found that the credit card numbers to be used to “pay” for the wine were being used fraudulently. (Just the credit card number can be written down, along with the security code, at a restaurant, for example). Thus, a winery could have the credit card transaction approved, think everything was fine and proceed to pay the courier out of their own funds. Once the fraud is discovered by the holder of the stolen credit card number, their credit card-issuing company is likely to reclaim the stolen funds from the winery, leaving the winery in debt for the courier fees. And the wine? At least that stays at the winery – it’s never collected!

For more information, contact Bede Doherty on 0413 214 200.



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