Some of Australia’s best-loved attractions and events are being hit by a sophisticated scam operating through Chinese social media platform WeChat, stealing potentially millions from Australian businesses.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) today launches an awareness campaign of the issue, after canvassing Victorian businesses on the impact of the fraud.
Nine members of VTIC, including major city and regional attractions have reported being affected, with a cumulated loss of more than $350,000 to March, which does not include the bank fees or lost sales.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone AM said this issue was more widespread and pervasive than it appeared when the scam first emerged last year.
“Last year, Sydney Harbour Bridge climb reported it had lost more than $100,000, and we were aware some Victorian operators had been hit, but we discovered this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“Some of our most famous tourism attractions, like the penguin parade at Phillip Island, are getting defrauded every day, to the point where they have people checking online bookings before the doors open to suspend tickets they believe may have been fraudulently paid for.
“This is a sophisticated scam where there is no limit as to who could be affected, and we have concerns that any Australian businesses that provide a ticketing system or service payable online could be targeted.”
Victoria Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Brad Ostermeyer said the scale of the issue became more apparent after VTIC convened a meeting of major tourism operators, including Eureka SkyDeck, Peninsula Hot Springs, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Skybus, Sovereign Hill and Global Ballooning and found the sum lost was hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum.
“It quickly became clear that tourism operators were handling this problem as isolated incidents when it is major fraud happening across the country,” Mr Ostermeyer said.
“We want to raise awareness of the issue and are calling for all affected Victorian businesses to contact us. Particularly smaller operators who may not know they have been affected need to report it to the police. For some small or family operated attractions, these losses could threaten their business.”