A NOOSAVILLE husband and wife trying to establish a unique new business has had their world rocked by a sophisticated scam that left them $107,000 out of pocket.
Bill Way, of Air-Up Australia, said the international con job had robbed them of their pending retirement and meant they would probably never own their own home.
"We hoped to have a little business to run in retirement, but it's all just evaporated before our eyes," Mr Way said.
He and his wife, Rose Marie, were encouraged when they received an order from the UK for 60 pneumatic jacks and 30 carbon dioxide tanks.
The business received an order and a deposit for the items, the deal was paid by credit card, and Mr Way organised shipping and insurance with the buyer's preferred companies.
Mr Way, who has been in business for 42 years, checked out the companies involved along the way and he was convinced all was legitimate.
He said everything was running smoothly until he was told by his bank that the buyer had used a stolen credit card and that Mr Way would be liable for the full cost of the goods and transactions.
"It's really really sophisticated and well done. My solicitor says it's one of the most sophisticated scams he's heard of," Mr Way said.
"It means no retirement for this little black duck and we'll never own our own home. It's a pretty f****d-up situation."
Perhaps the only light in the whole sordid affair is that the scammers never got the jacks and gas packs - they're sitting somewhere on a dock in Northumberland, UK, under a clouded ownership dispute.
Mr Way noted that the "client" only ever did business through Skype phone calls and email, meaning there was virtually no easy way to track them down.
While he has reported the scam to the Fraud Squad, the Australian Federal Police and even the FBI, he said the costs of investigating the relatively low dollar loss meant the authorities were disinterested.
He is aware of a Caboolture business that was stung for $38,000 in a similar scam.
The two businesses shared a stand at the LoGov Expo in Caboolture in October and Mr Way believed there was a link.
"They obviously knew we were new businesses, keen to do business, keen to do sales. We were just fresh meat."
Mr Way and his wife hold the Australian rights to market an ingenious portable CO2 gas backpack that can be used to power beer kegs and pneumatic tools without the need to be connected to a stationary compressor.
They've even tested the product with a V8 supercar, undoing wheel nuts and operating a pneumatic jack, with positive results.
But, in light of their massive financial loss, the future for the business is very much uncertain.
"If I could stop anyone from going through this pain that Rosie and I am going through, then that would be good," Mr Way said.
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