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Dad loses entire life savings after clicking on scam inheritance email: ‘I feel sick’

Renato was looking forward to a 'bright and relaxed' retirement but now he's been left with nothing.

An Australian man has lost the nest egg he was planning on using in retirement with just the click of a button.

Renato Calalang has become another victim of a notorious scam that has taken millions of dollars from unsuspecting people.

The 60-year-old Melbourne resident - who had managed to save close to $150,000 - was taken by surprise when he received an email from someone claiming to be the owner of a bank in his native Philippines.

Man with credit card about to pay a scam and laptop next to man holding wad of $50 notes
Renato Calalang sent tens of thousands of dollars to an unknown account after getting a scam email. (Source: Getty)

Have you been scammed? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

The bank representative, who said his name was Steve Golds, revealed a cousin of Calalang’s had died and left him a hefty inheritance of €3.8 million. People around the world have been warned to be wary of emails like this, especially when the amount is incredibly high.

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But Calalang said he actually had a cousin with the same name as the one mentioned in the email and, therefore, thought this was legitimate.

Golds said that in order to receive the millions of Euros owed to him, the 60-year-old had to provide some key details like his name, address, occupation and age. He also had to set up a bank account in the Philippines, but he had to deposit money into a Commonwealth Bank (CBA) account, which would then be funnelled to the overseas one.

This was another reason he thought the email was legitimate because he had been banking with CBA for years.

“This made me feel like nothing bad could happen and, if something were to go wrong, I thought I would be able to chase up Commonwealth Bank for help,” he explained to news.com.au.

Calalang was asked multiple times over several months to deposit money and was told each time it would get him closer to his inheritance. He even spoke to a “very convincing” representative from the Filipino bank, who assured him what he was doing was perfectly fine.

He complied each time with the deposits until his nest egg was completely gone.

Once he realised something wasn’t right he contacted CBA and Scamwatch but, sadly, there was not much anyone could do.

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“I was devastated. I went to the Commonwealth Bank for help in September 2023 and told them what happened,” the 60-year-old said. “They investigated the case. After two months, they told me I had been scammed.

“They said they could not recover the funds because the overseas bank would not cooperate.”

While he knows he was at fault for sending the money, he was surprised CBA didn’t flag the deposits as suspicious.

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He said he'd been crushed by the scam. His “bright and relaxed” retirement plans have been thrown into disarray and his self-esteem has hit rock bottom.

“I am still trying to process what happened, I still feel sick just thinking about the fact that I’d been scammed,” he said.

Commonwealth Bank said it tried to get the money back for Calalang.

"In this instance, Mr Calalang made a number of transfers to multiple banks over a two month period in response to the scammer telling him this would in turn release a substantial inheritance," the bank said in a statement to Yahoo Finance.

"When Mr Calalang contacted CBA about the transfers he had made we promptly attempted to recover the funds but were unsuccessful."

CBA added: "CBA encourages people to be vigilant when being asked to send money, and to 'Stop. Check. Reject'. when assessing requests for payment.

"This includes taking the extra time to consult a trusted family member or friend as a sounding board before making a payment to an unfamiliar recipient if there is a promise of a large sum of money in return.

"If you think you have been scammed or if you notice an unusual transaction or one you didn’t make, contact your bank immediately."

Scamwatch data found Australians lost more than $455 million to scams in 2023.

How do I protect myself from scammers?

Aussies lost a record $3.1 billion to scammers last year, an 80 per cent increase on the previous year.

Scamwatch warns to beware of the following scenarios:

  • It’s an amazing opportunity to make or save money

  • Someone you haven’t met needs your help - and money

  • The message contains links or attachments

  • You feel pressured to act quickly

  • They ask you to pay in an unusual or specific way

  • They ask you to set up new accounts or Pay ID

What should I do if I think I’ve been scammed?

Contact your bank and report the scam. Ask them to stop transactions and stop sending any money.

Report the scam to Scamwatch here and make an official complaint to police here.

Watch out for follow-up scams, particularly those promising they can get your money back. Scamwatch warned one in three victims of a scam were scammed more than once.

Lastly, get support for yourself. You can talk to a financial counsellor or reach out to BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or here for an online chat or Lifeline for crisis support online here on 13 11 14.

You can also contact IDCARE to “reduce the harm they experience from the compromise and misuse of their identity information by providing effective response and mitigation”.