An innocent father was scammed out of his life savings via email by a scam artist

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A father who was looking forward to retirement is now struggling to make ends meet after losing his savings in a cruel scam.

For the past 40 years, Renato Calalang has done nothing but work incredibly hard at all different types of jobs in order to make his life the best it can be.

The 60-year-old has always believed in the importance of saving every penny, and that's exactly what he has done for decades in anticipation of a comfortable retirement.

With approximately $150,000 in his bank account, Renato felt secure in knowing that he and his family would be financially secure in the future once he reached retirement age in the near future.

Renato Calalang has spent 40 years working and saving for retirement. Family bulletin

But now all his dreams have been snatched from under him in one quick move after he opened an email from someone claiming to be from a bank in his native Philippines.

Renato moved to Australia from Manila in 1986, but still has a lot of extended family back home, some of whom he's never met before.

So, when he received an email that a relative had died and left him some inheritance in his will, he didn't think it was completely out of the realm of possibility.

The scammers told Renato that in order to receive the inheritance, he would need to open a bank account in the Philippines. Renato Calalang

But unfortunately, opening that email was the worst mistake Renato ever made.

“I received an email from a guy called Steve Golds who said he was a bank owner in Manila,” the warehouse worker told News.com.au.

“He said I was entitled to an inheritance of €3.8 million and I just needed to provide my details, which I did in my response.

“He even provided all the documents regarding who he said was my cousin, there was a death certificate and everything.

“I have a cousin named the same as the person on the documents, so it seemed legit.

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“They said I needed to open a bank in the Philippines to get my inheritance. But to do that, I would need to deposit some money.

Scammers sent a fake death certificate to make it look more legitimate. Renato Calalang

“But I couldn't make the transfer to that bank directly, but instead they said their agent in Australia would help me with it.

“So I deposited some money into a Commonwealth Bank account, which is the same bank I work with.

“It made me feel like nothing bad could happen and if something went wrong, I thought I would be able to go to the Commonwealth Bank for help.”

Have you been a victim of a scam? Contact us: jasmine.kazlauskas@news.com.au

“There's nothing left”

Over the next three months, Renato explained that in good faith he continued to deposit money when they asked for it in the hope that he would receive his inheritance soon.

It wasn't long until he had nothing left.

Looking back, he says he can see how clearly it was a scam, but in the moment it seemed very real, and he even spoke to one of the scammers on the phone, who he said sounded legitimate.

With little money left to his name, he informed the police, Scamwatch and his bank about what had happened, but unfortunately nothing happened.

“Nowadays, laptops come with a high-quality graphics card. I went to the Commonwealth Bank for help in September 2023 and told them what happened,” Renato explained.

“I told them what happened and they investigated the case. Two months later they told me I had been scammed. They said they couldn't get the money back because the offshore bank wouldn't cooperate.

Calalang received an email claiming that a distant relative had died and that there was some inheritance for him. Family bulletin

“The man I spoke to was based in Holland. I spoke to him once. “He was very convincing. The speech was very calm, and nothing seemed strange.

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Renato says that while he realizes that he was the one who fell victim to the scam, he wishes there were some security measures put in place by his bank.

“This would certainly constitute suspicious activity, with that much money being taken out all the time,” he said.

“I wish they would have alerted me that this was a scam. If they see someone's account dwindling, something is clearly wrong.

Calalang was frustrated that his bank did not alert him that his funds were being depleted. Family bulletin

“But instead they just said it was my fault. However the scammers have bank accounts with the Commonwealth.

“I've been a customer of theirs for almost 40 years, but I feel like I've been treated like another number.”

“I still feel sick”

With nothing to his name, Renato found himself having to “start from the bottom” again at the age of 60.

With a wife and children to support, he says he felt “depressed” and “anxious” about their future.

“I've worked hard my whole life for this to happen,” he said.

“I was looking forward to a bright future and a comfortable retirement. But instead I'm not just living day to day.

“My financial freedom has been taken away from me and my self-esteem is at an all-time low.

“At this point, my family is the only thing keeping me going.”

He is sharing his story to raise awareness and hopes it will help others avoid falling victim to scammers in the future.

Renato is also hopeful that the Commonwealth Bank will still be able to get some of its money back.

“I'm still trying to process what happened, and I still feel sick just thinking about the fact that I was scammed,” he said.

“I'm still hoping the bank can recover some of my money, if not all of it. I have to live on hope.

“It's terrible that there are criminals out there who can target innocent people. I really hope no one else goes through this same ordeal.

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Commonwealth Bank response

A CBA spokesperson confirmed to news.com.au that they are aware of this type of scam and urged customers to be extra careful when sending money to people they do not know.

Even after reporting the fraud to his bank, nothing could be done. Renato Calalang

“CBA recognizes the financial and emotional burden that fraud places on customers and society,” they said.

“We are aware of cases where a fraudster has made a false promise of an inheritance or a share of a large sum of money. This could be through a phone call, text message or email.

“In communicating with the customer, the scammer will ask for a smaller fee up front.

“The CBA program encourages people to be vigilant when they are asked to send money, and to 'stop' when evaluating payment requests.

The Commonwealth Bank has encouraged its customers to take extra care when sending money. Pema tamang paakharin

“This involves spending extra time consulting a trusted family member or friend as a reconnaissance point before making a payment to an unfamiliar recipient if a large sum of money is promised in return.

“If you believe you have been defrauded or if you notice an unusual transaction or transaction you did not make, contact your bank immediately.”

They added that despite their attempts to recover some of Mr Calalang's money, they were unsuccessful.

“In this case, Mr Calalang made a number of transfers to multiple banks over the course of two months in response to the fraudster who told him this would in turn unlock a large inheritance,” they said.

“When Mr. Calalang contacted CBA about the transfers he made, we immediately tried to recover the money but were unsuccessful.

“For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and scams, including information about common types of scams, visit http://www.commbank.com.au/safe.”






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