Facebook victim thought scam was real
When a distressed friend asked for help after an overseas trip turned into a nightmare, a Kalgoorlie man was only too willing to pitch in.
But little did he know the $1000 he wired to Natasha Cann was in fact going to a professional cyber fraudster, who had hacked into her Facebook account and was proceeding to dupe all her friends into handing over their cash.
The man, who did not wish to be named, told WAtoday.com.au he was concerned after his friend Natasha told him she was in the United Kingdom and had just been robbed at gunpoint.
She also said all her belongings - except her passport - had been stolen.
He said he had never met Natasha in person, but they had developed a friendship by phone and over email through their work dealings in the mining industry.
The man was speaking to her on Facebook chat, when "Natasha" told him about her overseas nightmare and asked him to send her $1000.
"She asked me if I could help, I was like 'yeah no worries', and she needed some money to fix her hotel bill and to get back to Australia," he said.
"And then she sent an email address to forward details to, and we started communicating via email."
The next day (Monday), he transferred the money via Western Union, but later received another email which triggered alarm bells.
"I got a reply email later on that afternoon saying there was a problem and that I needed to send more money, that's when it started to get a little bit suss," he recalled.
"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I should have tried to ring her (on Sunday night)."
The amount of the second demand was $1500.
The man said he rang Ms Cann on Monday night and spoke to her about it.
"She asked 'have you heard from my Facebook friends' and it turns out I have," he said.
"I told her what happened. She was upset, moreso about the fact they actually got me."
He called the police but they told him there was nothing they could do to get the money back because the money was transferred overseas.
According to the man, police in Britain also told local officers they were not interested because they "haven't got the resources to chase these guys".
The 26-year-old - who quipped he was "old enough to know better" - said he was not angry with the police reaction to the theft after they explained to him that it was a "pretty hard thing to crack".
"It's unfortunate I did get caught by it, but there are bigger problems in the world than things like that," he said.
"It would have been good if they could have done something and someone got caught, but I understand where they are coming from as well."
The fraud victim found out the money was collected in Manchester, and he was informed by Western Union that once the cash had been picked up, there was nothing they could do to recoup the money.
"If it hadn't been picked up, I could have stopped it," he said.
He said he had learned his lesson and was still using Facebook - but with "a lot more" caution.
"I guess I'm a lot more aware," he said.
"I know about hackers but the thought never crossed my mind when it popped up on there.
"It caught me out, being a trusting sort of person.
"I was happy she wasn't in that position, but then, I was pissed off that I had been ripped off."
He strongly regretted not contacting Ms Cann earlier to find out whether she was in fact robbed at gunpoint and in England at the time.
The man was also disturbed by some of the reactions to his misfortune.
"I felt pretty stupid that I fell for it without trying to contact her previously by any other means," he said.
"I could have asked her heaps of questions, but it didn't even cross my mind and I didn't think it could have been anyone else.
"I got a lot of mixed reactions from a lot of people - a lot of people say I am the biggest idiot in the world while a lot of people say I did what any other good friend would have done.
"It was like the real deal - it didn't cross my mind that it could have been anyone else.
"I've learned a lesson and that's something good that's come out of it."
"Most people think it is never going to happen to you," he said.