A call center in the Philippines has been dramatically raided after innocent Australians lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a high-level pension scam.
Investigators busted up to 30 operators working at a call center in Metro Manila as they called dozens of unsuspecting Australians hoping they could be duped into handing over their hard-earned super funds.
The scammers from the bogus ‘ASAL Group’ operated by reading victims a detailed script promising better returns on their super and by ‘cloning’ the details of a legitimate business owned by finance firm AMP.
Victims were told to ‘check out’ a professional website, where others went as far as depositing money into an apparently legitimate ANZ account, ABC’s 7:30 reports.
The scammers, sitting in cubicles with headsets, would gather information about their victims by asking questions about their lifestyles and spending habits.
One unfortunate victim was Rob Wade, whose own daughter was also almost caught up in the same cruel scam. The Queensland builder lost $200,000.
A call center in the Philippines has been dramatically raided after innocent Australians lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a high-level pension scam (pictured)
Speaking to the ABC, Mr Wade said he only realized he might have been defrauded six weeks after transferring the large sum into an ANZ account which was actually run by the fraudsters.
He said he was contacted by a phone number with a NSW area code and spoke to a scammer called Justin, who he said had an Australian accent.
Justin, who Mr Wade said had extensive knowledge of super funds, recommended the developer switch to a ‘high performance product’ they used with Morgan Stanley, a well-known US investment and finance firm.
However, Wade’s hard-earned dollars would never reach the superior ‘self-managed super fund’ that Justin and his colleague had raved about.
‘When I actually got the bank account details that we were supposed to transfer the money to, I thought it was an Australian bank, ANZ. It can’t be a scam, Mr Wade said.
‘They actually provided me with an app and you can see everything on the app, what was going on, showed me what the money was doing.’
His daughter, Rebecca, believes she was also victimized by the scammers.
She had considered switching to ASAL Group but this was flagged by her fund AMP, who asked if she had completed a rollover form.
Ms Wade now believes the form was forged by the fake financial planners and feels grateful she was not left in the same predicament as her father.
“I felt physically sick just knowing that thankfully my super fund had been stopped … but my parents’ entire super fund had been taken,” she said.
The scammers, sitting in cubicles with headsets, would gather information about their victims by asking them questions about their lifestyles and spending habits (pictured, raid)
A third victim, Louie Rinaldi, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Like Mr Wade, he made an effort to carry out his own detailed checks but still had his money stolen shortly after it was transferred to the ANZ account.
Sir. Rinaldi said a Victorian police detective said his money was likely moved either overseas or converted to cryptocurrency in just 24 hours.
‘Some people could say it was my fault. I obviously sent that money,’ he said.
‘But I was obviously cheated, and I was cheated by some very, very, very smart people who have a lot of resources behind them.’
In a statement, ANZ said the matter had been reported to Victoria Police after the institution became aware of ASAL Group fraud.
Up to six Australians have fallen victim to the scam and Ken Gamble, the head of private intelligence firm IFW Global, traveled to Manila to oversee the raid and represent the six whose lives had been ruined by scammers.
He and armed officers from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group witnessed the search warrant with material from seized computers that are still being investigated, along with the roles of up to 30 phone operators.
Louie Rinaldi (pictured) lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the pension scam
After the raid, officers visited the home of a British man living in Manila who is said to be involved in running the call centre.
No charges have been brought against him or any of the phone operators, but their role in scams targeting Australians will continue to be investigated.
A spokesman for AMP told the ABC: ‘We are sorry to hear the experience of people who fell victim to this scam.’
“Of the five AMP customers who were victims of the scam, AMP was able to recover or refund funds for all but one,” they said.
“In cases where people are concerned that they may have been defrauded, it is vital to contact their financial institution as soon as possible to increase the chances of funds being recovered.”