Credible-sounding scam cost pensioner $23,000
A LETTER scam cost Aldo Provenzano "everything" and the Ballina pensioner is warning others to be careful.
Aldo was inspired to tell his story after reading a couple of published warnings about scams in which letters from law firms tell the recipient they are able to claim a share of an inheritance worth millions of dollars.
The letters received by local residents were from Spain and Portugal.
And a similar scam cost Aldo $23,000 - his life savings.
But for the former Missionary Brother from Italy, it wasn't so easy to realise he was being scammed until it was too late.
Back in 2010 he, like the others, received a letter claiming a person living in Spain who shared his surname had died, and the supposed law firm contacted him because their efforts in finding relatives had failed.
The deal was 10% of the 6.1 million euros inheritance would be donated to charity, and Aldo and the law firm would share the rest.
However the 71-year-old man, who migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1970s, knew he had a distant relative in Spain, and thought the name mentioned in the letter was that person.
He sent off a fee of about $4500 to have the money transferred, and received a string of faxes - including one with "International Credit Union" and "In the High Court of Justice, Madrid, Spain" on letterhead, to confirm the transfer would go ahead.
A month after receiving the first letter, he received a fax advising him the transfer was stopped, and he had to pay another $19,000 as a fee for the money to come through.
He was later advised the payment had been stopped again, and was asked to send more money through. Aldo didn't, and requested his money be returned. It wasn't.
Aldo doesn't have a computer, but when the money didn't come through, he rang up one of his few family members living in Australia and they checked out the details of the law firm on the internet.
They had to give Aldo the sad news he had been scammed. "I thought it was something genuine," he said, pointing to the letterheads of all the documents he received.
"It's very sad.
"I put the money away - maybe for my funeral. I've lost everything.
"But I have a nice house. I should have been careful."