A shop assistant has stopped an elderly woman from buying iTunes gift cards that were bound for overseas scammers who had already duped her out of $46,000.
The 74-year-old Hawthorn woman was contacted by an overseas scammer by phone earlier this month, who claimed to work for a major telco, police said.
She was then groomed for a week, in constant contact with the scammers, who provided her with an Australian phone number, which was re-routed overseas via Skype.
The offenders gained remote access to the woman's computer and online banking and told her they had deposited money into her account to 'help fix her security' then asked her to withdraw it and send it via MoneyGram to various bank accounts in India.
The offenders also requested the victim withdraw cash, purchase more than 330 iTunes gift cards and relay the gift card codes over the phone in order to 'fix her security problem', police said.
A worker at a major retailer called police when the woman came in to buy a large number of cards, putting a stop to the scam.
Yarra Crime Investigation Unit Detective Senior Constable Cameron Mitchell says it was a cruel, targeted attack.
"The offenders made transfers of cash between the victim's three bank accounts in order to confuse her and make it look like the balance of her account was increasing," Det Sen Const Mitchell said in a statement.
"The victim believed she was transferring the telco's money to the overseas accounts when in fact it was her own.
"They had an Indian accent. We are relying on talking to authorities where we believe the money has gone to, but once it leaves Australia it's very hard to recoup."
Police are working with Apple to find out where and how the cards were activated and have called on retailers to question anyone buying large amounts of gift cards.
Residents are urged to report any scams of this nature to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) at www.acorn.gov.au