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Aussie mum's warning after getting caught out by 'Coles rewards points' scam

The business owner feels 'foolish' but wants to stop others from 'learning the same lesson' she did when she had her 'guard down'.

An Aussie mum and business owner has shared the "foolish" moment she fell for a text massage scam claiming to be from Coles. Sar Nimarota said she's speaking out because she wants to warn others and make sure no one else is caught out like she was.

The Wollongong, NSW, entrepreneur told Yahoo Finance that she was in the midst of a busy day when she received a text telling her to redeem her Coles rewards points that were "expiring soon".

“Like many working people and parents I was in the middle of a couple of different things and quite focussed and I saw this text message and it said you have Coles rewards points,” Nimarota told Yahoo Finance.

Sar Nimarota pictured looking at the camera.
Nimarota said she felt 'foolish' when she realised she had fallen for a scam, but wants to use her experience to warn others. (Source: Supplied)

Do you have a story to tell? Contact yahoo.finance.au@yahooinc.com

“Normally I would have noticed that the number didn't say Coles, but because I was busy my guard was down and I just didn’t compute and I clicked the link — first mistake.”

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The link took Nimarota to what appeared to be a Coles website, which allowed her to “use” her rewards points.

“That’s when they got me because it was all branded Coles and it looked like a Coles site. It didn't look unusual. And because it said I had points and they were expiring soon I just didn’t compute and thought I better use them," she said.

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It's a scam that's been doing the rounds for months and Coles has a warning about it up on their website.

"This is a phishing message designed to obtain personal details such as passwords, credit card or banking details," the Coles website said.

"In most cases, once you click on the link within the text, you're redirected to a ‘phishing site’ where they'll ask for your personal information and use this to carry out fraudulent activities."

The website said the retailer would never request personal banking details in unsolicited communications.

Screenshots of messages offering to redeem Coles loyalty points.
Some examples of the text messages which scammers are sending, usually in the early hours of the morning. (Source: Supplied/NSW Police)

NSW Police recently shared a post to their social media urging people not to click on any link received from the scammers claiming to be from Coles.

The government's National Anti-Scam Centre has recently warned Australians about the message scam, saying that scammers have also been sending messages about Qantas Frequent Flyer and Telstra loyalty programs.

Scamwatch has had 209 reports in the past four months, the website said.

“While the vast majority of reports to Scamwatch received so far are in relation to Qantas Frequent Flyer, Telstra and Coles loyalty programs, it is important for Australians to be aware that any loyalty program could be referred to in this type of scam,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.

Nimarota used her “points” to purchase a case of beer for her husband, which covered the entire purchase except for the final $1.50, which she entered her bank card details to pay for.

“You almost had a little dopamine hit because you thought you could get something for nothing," she said.

“I thought, I'll get my husband a case of beer, and it will be delivered. Fantastic. That's a nice treat for him. I even texted him and said, I managed to get you beer with Coles reward points. It took three days for the penny to drop.”

Sar Nimarota wearing glasses.
Nimarota wants to warn other Aussies to be vigilant when it comes to scams. (Source: Supplied)

Nimarota realised her mistake when she received a similar text again a few days later.

“My heart dropped in my stomach, it’s not Coles. I’ve allowed myself to be scammed," she recalled.

Nimarota then had to call her bank, cancel and replace all her cards. She told Yahoo Finance the bank advised her to change her passwords and set up two-factor authentication

She also took to TikTok to warn others of the scam.

“Other people said, me too, me too, me too. Other people said, 'I've seen that. I was about to click on it. Thank you so much'.”

Nimarota admitted to feeling foolish for falling for the scam but said it’s happening a lot and called on other Australians to be vigilant to the clues of similar scams.

“I'm 43. I've got a big business, and I'm just a busy woman who let her guard down. And when you let your guard down and are trusting, you can learn a lesson," she said.

Scamwatch offers the following tips on it's website to avoid getting scammed:

  • STOP – take your time before providing any personal information.

  • THINK – ask yourself if the message could be fake?

  • PROTECT – act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact the company referenced in the loyalty program message and report scams to Scamwatch.

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