A New South Wales broker says she is “angry and embarrassed” to become a recent victim of a scam allegedly run by banned trail book dealer Mark Whittingham.
The broker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, paid $1,800 for a database of 30,000 names which she believed to be exclusive.
Upon receiving the database and sending out introduction letters, she was told by the recipients to stop sending spam.
A man calling himself ‘Mark’ first contacted the broker on 12 November, and while she initially turned the offer down, after a couple of weeks of email contact between the two she decided it was a legitimate former customer list and purchased it.
“He wasn’t pushy, but he’s a con artist, that’s how he makes his living. He came across as professional,” she said.
The broker said she did not speak up at the time because she felt embarrassed at being scammed, and believes there are many others in the same boat who will feel the same way.
But she felt compelled to tell her story when she was contacted by ‘Mark’ at the same email address yesterday – offering her the same database she had already bought.
“I actually told him to ‘f*** off’ yesterday, because he had the audacity to contact me again.”
The email address used for communication between the two was firstname.lastname@example.org
and the NSW broker deposited the money to Califour Pty Ltd, which is registered to Mark Whittingham.
Cali Four is also the name of the company run by Whittingham’s wife, Kate, which was previously under investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria.
This is also the company where Patrick McMenamin, director of Common Cents Financial Services in NSW, received a tax invoice from after he signed an agreement to purchase 'approximately 21,000 mortgage broking customers' from Mark Whittingham, operating through the company Connection Blue in December 2012.
The database was promised as ‘exclusive’ but later McMenamin discovered other brokers also ‘owned’ this database. He is currently putting together a class action to try to bring Whittingham to justice.
McMenamin told Australian Broker
yesterday he has not had as many people as he would have liked join the class action, however he frequently hears of other brokers allegedly getting scammed by the same man which suggests it is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
“There could be dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people he has ripped off who are either unaware that we are trying to get him caught and punished or are just too embarrassed to come forward,” he said.
Whittingham did not return Australian Broker’s
phone calls yesterday, but a reply from ‘Mark’ at the email@example.com
address denied he was doing anything wrong.
“Sorry we don’t make comments to your group other than to say we do not sell trail books.”
The NSW broker who lost $1800 has reported Whittingham to the Office of Fair Trading, and warns it is hard to know if you are about to be scammed, especially when the scammer seems professional.
“Be extremely wary. Have a physical meeting with the person you are buying from,” she said.
“It’s not even about the money lost, but I get so angry when I think of him and the way he’s [allegedly] scamming people and getting away with it, that my eyes start to shake in my head.”
Both MFAA and FBAA say the onus is on the broker to exercise due diligence when buying trail books.
“[Mark Whittingham] has been a thorn in the side for the broker channel for many years. We, along with many of the aggregators, have produced many warnings to members about his activities as well as reporting him to ASIC. While he has been the subject of a ban, it seems other scams are continuing to appear,” MFAA CEO Phil Taylor told Australian Broker
earlier this year.
McMenamin suggests anyone who has purchased a fake database and has a record of the date of purchase, a copy of the data and any agreement executed to document the transaction should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org