Facebook users have lost tens of thousands of dollars in the online hoax.
Since April WA ScamNet has received reports from 18 people claiming to have lost a total of almost $110,000 in the online 'lottery scam'.
West Australian Facebookers have reported receiving messages from people who they thought were friends encouraging them to claim lottery prizes, but instead they have ended up being duped into paying thousands of dollars in supposed fees and taxes to scammers.
Individuals said they lost between $14,000 and $16,000 each.
The sham works by scammers setting up cloned Facebook accounts using stolen images and then sending messages to friends of that account.
The “friend” claims to have won lots of money in a lottery and tells the victim that their name is also on a list of winners. The victim is given a link to a bogus Facebook page of an “agent” who collects the fees and a fake website which displays a list of beneficiaries.
Believing they had won between $150,000 and $300,000, the victims were asked to pay administration costs, duty and delivery fees of up to $16,000. They were then sent tracking information from a fake transport company.
One victim became suspicious when the transport company advised that the delivery truck had been in an accident in Collie and that they must now pay for a private driver and bodyguard to deliver the funds. A photo of the damaged truck was sent as evidence.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said scammers realise that a Facebook message from a trusted friend would be less likely to be questioned than a random message from an unknown person.
“The victims tell us that they went along with the sting because they thought the message was from a real friend, giving the whole scenario some legitimacy in the minds of those being targeted,” he said.
“We have been successful in getting the fake Facebook pages and websites shut down, but they just pop up again using different names and the highly lucrative scam continues to claim more victims.
“We encourage Facebookers to be aware of this scam and to question any communication which involves unexpected prizes and the upfront payment of fees. Contact the “friend” outside of social media sites and verify if it is indeed them sending the messages.
“Do not reply or follow any links in the messages, just hit delete and block the sender – there are no real Facebook lotteries or beneficiary lists.
“Spread the word about this scam among family and friends and share on social media so we can put a stop to the losses being suffered by a growing number of victims.”
For further information and advice on scams, visit www.wascamnet.wa.gov.au. To report a scam, email email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54.