The Upwey-Tecoma Bowls Club has launched a crowd-funding campaign and issued a warning to other clubs, after being scammed out of more than $120,000.
Earlier this year the long-standing club fell victim to an elaborate scam, while attempting to pay the final instalment for a new green after damaged caused by the floods in late 2022.
Located in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, Upwey-Tecoma Bowls Club (UTBC) was formed in 1928 and is a popular destination for private events such as weddings, birthdays and functions.
In October last year, a nearby bridge became blocked with debris, causing waters to rise and destroying the club’s main bowling green.
This left the venue with two rinks that could be recovered and the back green, and significantly impacted its revenue-earning capacity over summer.
The damage was covered by insurance, and a new green was installed in April.
But before payments were finalised, the club had in fact unknowingly fallen victim to a Business Email Compromise scam. This kind of scam infiltrates a business’ email account, looking for pending payments and pretending to be a legitimate business.
UTBC received an invoice from the hacker that appeared the same as previous legitimate invoices, except that the bank details had changed. A representative of the club made a trip to the bank to deposit the large final payment to the contractor.
Soon after, alarm bells rang as the contractor followed up, seeking the final payment.
UTBC reported the incident and worked with the bank and contractor, as well as commissioning an IT forensic specialist and seeking legal advice, but it seems the money has disappeared and there is no chance of recovery.
The club’s insurance does not cover these types of scams or the falsification of invoices, much less the further cost accrued.
The UTBC has gone public with the incident, in the hope that other clubs might be spared a similar fate.
Best practise is to confirm payment details on large amounts with the recipient, and stay abreast of scam guidelines provided by the ACCC.
Having remained profitable in recent years, the club says it will be able to weather the loss and over time rebuild its cash reserves.
Anyone wishing to help can contribute to the UTBC’s Go Fund Me campaign.