A Painful Price To Pay: Wollongong Beautician Thuy Le Scammed Out of $40k

Jean S.
woman looking at credit card and phone
Shutterstock | 2780032

A beautician from Wollongong, New South Wales is devastated as more than $40,000 was allegedly stolen from her bank account after she made a $60 refund to a client. Unfortunately, Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has refused to reimburse her money, saying that it's not their responsibility.

A Mysterious Call

sparkle nails and beauty salon

The mom-of-two, Thuy Le, has been working for 14 years as a beautician at the Sparkle Nails and Beauty salon. On November 24, 2022, she received a call from someone who claimed to be a previous client of the salon.

A Regrettable Decision

According to the caller, he had mistakenly paid $60 to Le on behalf of his wife and was now seeking a refund. Upon reviewing her Commonwealth Bank statement, Le saw that there was indeed a deposit made into her account, so she promptly transferred $60 to an account provided by the caller.

Lost Money

bank statement of thuy le

Strangely, when she checked her account again the next day, a total of $41,600 – her life savings – had been withdrawn from her account without her permission. The withdrawals were made in five separate transactions.

Filing a Report

Adamant that she didn't provide the caller with any of her personal details, Le immediately filed a report to the bank about what she believed was a scammer's successful attempt to steal her money.

Not Responsible

However, CBA claimed that they weren't responsible for the lost funds. Although they offered Le $2000 to resolve the issue, they refused to do further investigation, saying that it was entirely her fault.

Devastated Mother

thuy le and her family

As the sole provider of her family, Le is completely devastated. Her husband is currently battling Parkinson's Disease, and with two young children ages six and eleven to care for, she faces a daunting task.

Interviewed on the News

She was interviewed by Channel 7 in Australia.

"I'm not a liar, a criminal, a fraud," Le said in her interview. "I'm in financial hardship. I can't sleep. I want to know why this happened to me and how it happened to me."

Husband Suffering From Parkinson’s

Talking about her family, she said, "I have two little kids, I have a husband with Parkinson’s disease, he cannot work. We need the money for medicine."

The Bank's Statement

commonwealth bank

According to her bank, CBA, these alleged fraudulent dealings were successful on the first try. This apparently means that whoever did the transactions used security details that are "virtually impossible" for an unauthorized person to guess – unless the account owner themselves gives those details away.

No Liability

The bank said to Le, "The only reasonable explanation for these logins would be that your online banking credentials were known to the unauthorized third party, which would be in breach of the passcode security requirements."

Not Fast Enough

woman holding phone
Unsplash | Firmbee.com

To make things worse, the bank also claimed that Le wasn't fast enough in reporting the unauthorized transactions once they'd been logged into a Commonwealth Bank app.

"Had you reported the transactions immediately after the login, the chances of successfully recovering some of the funds would have been much higher."

Applying for Government Assistance

Le's extreme state of helplessness compelled her to apply for governmental assistance.

Outraged at Bank

She's outraged that the bank had placed sole responsibility on her, despite no warning signs in CBA. She also insisted that she didn't give out any of her personal information to anyone.

Filing a Complaint

In a bid to recoup her lost funds, she has now lodged an official complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Mixed Reactions Online

dailymail comment
Daily Mail | @Honest_Bob

Online, people have mixed reactions to the news. One DailyMail commenter said, "The bank knows who received the funds because the thief used a CBA account. So where is the money?"

Some Sided With the Bank

daily mail comment
Daily Mail | @Jugibava

Another seemed to side with CBA. "It's not the banks fault.."

Some Weren't Surprised

daily mail comment
Daily Mail | @gregtoo

One commenter doesn't seem surprised by the news. "Ah, the Cons' Bank is in the news again. What a surprise."

A Similar Case

Interestingly, this really isn't the first time that an incident like this happened to Commonwealth Bank. In August 2022, a few months before this happened to Le, Channel 7 covered a story about a Melbourne nurse named Donna Brain, who also experienced the exact type of scam.

Same Modus Operandi

donna brain scammed 200k
7News | 7

Brain allegedly transferred $210 to an unknown caller who claimed to be a bank employee. The $210 was apparently mistakenly transferred to her account, so the caller needed it back.

Just like Le, she also lost the rest of the money in her account, which totaled a whopping $210,000.

Refunded Money

However, in Brain's case, CBA refunded the entire amount. They also released an announcement reminding people to be more careful with their accounts and to contact the bank immediately should they notice something unusual.

Confused Why

daily mail comment
Daily Mail | @ST.

One commenter pointed out the similarity and wondered why CBA is treating the cases differently. "How can CBA refuse to accept it is possible that this woman was scammed despite not giving any personal details, yet they have accepted that the other woman who had $200,000 stolen under the same circumstances was scammed?"

Beware of Scammers

It's not yet clear who scammed Le out of her life savings, but this is another unfortunate example of scammers taking advantage of unsuspecting victims. Let's hope that Le and her family get the help they need and that justice will soon be served.