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Café owner loses $2000 after fraudster uses stolen credit card to make orders

Brendan Rees

A Southbank café owner has been left gutted after unknowingly falling victim to credit card fraud during last year’s lockdowns, in which he lost about $2000.

Ashwyn Prabakaran, who runs 8 Miles Café, said he had processed several payments over the phone for a customer who, unbeknown to the cafe proprietor, had used a stolen credit card to buy food and drink.

“We dropped it off, put it on the ground, the guy picked it up and we just watched him take it away,” he said after Mr Prabakaran and his staff delivered the orders to the customer staying at the City Park Hotel in South Melbourne.

“We thought that was the proper protocol during COVID.”

While it did occur to Mr Prabakaran that the customer was making quite a few purchases, at times spending up to $300 which included alcohol, he said, “We did feel sorry for them, we thought they were in lockdown, and we needed to help out.”

But after processing another order, Mr Prabakaran said he received a call from an unknown person saying they were the victim of the stolen credit card and that a fraudster had been making purchases at 8 Mile Café.  

Mr Prabakaran then contacted his bank who advised that if the victim “can prove it’s fraud, you’ll lose the money unless you’ve got a signature of the person.”

“I should have been more cautious; I should’ve contacted the bank … or chased after the matter more but at that time I was short of staff. I was doing close to 16 hours a day,” he said, but he questioned, “It’s COVID, why would you want to get a signature?”

“It’s another thing we didn’t need at that time,” he said after revenue dropped 90 per cent during the lockdowns.

 

It just happened, and we were shocked.

 

“There were a few times they asked for cash out as well. The cash out should have been a big alarm.”

“It was a bit suspicious for the amounts but at the end of the day we lost out,” he said after his bank withdrew about $2000 from his account earlier this year.

He said he wanted to share his story to make other local businesses aware of the potential risks of credit card fraud and the financial losses that could be incurred.

Mr Prabakaran attended South Melbourne Police Station to report the matter but was told “we can’t do anything” and was referred to his bank as they “would normally resolve it.”

However, Mr Prabakaran said he was left perplexed after receiving a call from the police last month informing him there had been a separate incident of credit card fraud at his café in which someone had made a purchase of $3.40, and they needed CCTV to investigate.

Southbank Police Station commander Senior Sergeant Alex O’Toole said while she couldn’t comment on Mr Prabakaran’s case, she said if businesses were prepared to take payments over the phone, it exposed them to a range of security risks.

“Unfortunately, some things can open up to crime, because if they [businesses] are prepared to take credit card details over the phone, they don’t actually see the card or they don’t ask them to sign or they don’t get them to put the PIN in, it means there’s that extra layer of security that they’re missing out on,” she said.

She said if a victim did report their credit card as stolen to police, “normally the banks repay what’s lost on the credit card.”

According to ANZ’s website, fraudulent transactions can be reduced by: 

  • Avoiding hand keying transactions where the cardholder can’t be verified;
  • Ensure the transaction has been PIN entered or signature verified; and
  • Be alert to customers who appear nervous, unable to identify themselves or ask for the transaction to be split or hand keyed •

 

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