$20k deal proved too good to be true

Cally DupeCountryman
Donnybrook couple Verna and Gary Elks.
Camera IconDonnybrook couple Verna and Gary Elks. Credit: Jon Gellweiler

It seemed like a deal too good to be true.

And unfortunately for Donnybrook cattle farmers Gary and Verna Elks it was.

The couple, who run about 50 cattle and some marron on 68ha, lost nearly $20,000 in a machinery scam in March after they were duped into buying a tractor from what turned out to be a bogus website.

They are among nine West Australians caught in similar scams this year and say the website — boramachinery.com — appeared so legitimate they did not realise anything was wrong until the tractor they had paid for was not delivered.

Adding to the complexity of the scam, the couple had correspondence with a second bogus company — Australia MD Transport, now known as Australia A&D Transport — which was supposedly transporting the tractor from Darwin.

After bank-transferring $19,475 for the tractor, they were provided a tracking number that could be checked through the Australian MD Transport website. When their tractor did not arrive by the March 19 delivery date and it appeared to be stopped in the abandoned WA town of Reedy, south of Meekatharra, they became concerned.

The transport company initially told them the delivery had been held up by COVID-19 travel restrictions but when they asked for a refund, the communication went silent.

“We had been looking to buy a tractor with a bucket because we are both elderly, and we needed a tractor that was going to help us out,” Mrs Elks said.

“So we went on the internet and found this company over east, Bora Tractors. They are a lot cheaper over there normally, so we asked about this particular one.

“They sent us all of the details, the price was really good.”

Mrs Elks said the bogus company had its own transport arm that had an escrow trust account for holding funds until they received delivery of the tractor.

She said they even investigated the companies on the ASIC website and they seemed legitimate.

“We went through all the searches we could do,” she said. “Everything looked legal and above board. So we proceeded and got a tracking number from MD Transport; it took a few days to go to Broome, and then it came down inland towards Meekatharra, and then it ended up at Reedy, which is an abandoned townsite. It stayed there for five days and that was the last we heard of it. They kept giving us delays because of COVID-19, saying the roads were closed ... this was before the borders were closed. After two weeks, we realised we had been scammed.”

Mr Elks said the scam website had been very elaborate and they had been partly tricked into paying for the tractor because the account was with Bankwest in Mundaring.

“The main thing that got us, we saw because the bank was here, that must be a good thing,” he said.

“It also boils down that we are very trusting people, and we believe that people are good and honest, and the old farmer would rather make a nail than try a nail.”

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