VICTIMS of an elaborate identity theft operation say they only realised something was amiss when one of their phones randomly switched to SOS mode.
Raphael Wong and wife Tiffany from Melbourne, Australia, have revealed the extensive lengths an opportunistic hacker took to almost get away with stealing thousands from them.
The Melbourne couple welcomed a new baby during Victoria’s 70-day lockdown in 2021.
But while the new parents were adjusting to their new normal, a cunning thief stole their identities, committed tax fraud and nearly made off with £22,200 in superannuation savings.
In February 2021, Tiffany ordered a driver’s licence which never arrived in the post but being focused on other things, she didn’t realise.
Six months later, her phone switched to ‘SOS only’ and she was unable to make any phone calls.
Raphael, 32, told news.com.au: “It was a couple of weeks before we cottoned on.”
When they approached their phone company, the couple found they were paying off a brand new iPad and iPhone at £200 a month, which they’d never purchased.
When Raphael and Tiffany looked at their Optus mobile phone plan they saw all their details had changed to email addresses that didn’t belong to them.
Raphael said: “Once we realised someone had updated our details, that’s when alarm bells started to ring.”
Passwords to their emails kept getting changed until they lost access entirely.
They believe a hacker stole Tiffany’s licence from the post and has been able to use her personal information to access their phone and email accounts.
The couple were then horrified to find their superannuation was at risk after another personal account had been targeted and attempted an early release of funds.
Raphael was able to block the hacker but got in touch with his accountant as it was tax time and their emails were linked to the account.
The accountant then revealed they were too late, the details had been changed and he had been removed from their Australian Tax Office login.
He was able to re-add himself, but found an application had been made for a tax return of AUD$42,000 (£22,200).
Raphael said: “That’s some serious identity theft, it shocked us to our core.”
“If it wasn’t for our accountant, we probably never would have known. It was all a mess. It’s quite anxiety-provoking. There’s definitely a sense of violation.”
The couple urges others to have multiple layers of protection and be vigilant with mail.
Victoria Police confirmed they received a cyber report of an alleged incident involving the personal financial accounts of a Burwood man and woman being compromised in August 2021.
A spokesperson said: “The report is currently being assessed.”