Australian operators warn of million-dollar scam targeting Chinese tourists

Scammers are posing as travel agents to offer heavily-discounted tickets to major attractions, then using stolen credit card details to rip off tourism operators.

Australian tourism operators have issued a warning about a multi-million-dollar scam targeting Chinese tourists.

They say tourists may not be aware they have been caught up in the scam, which is costing tourism operators millions of dollars.

"They're unaware of the issue until they turn up to the attraction, and, sometimes, they're actually enjoying the attraction, but the businesses are the ones being impacted at a later date," said Victorian Tourism Council chief executive Brad Ostermeyer.

Using the popular Chinese messaging application WeChat, scammers pose as travel agents to offer heavily-discounted tickets for tourist attractions.

The scammers, who have a database of stolen credit card details, advertise a ticket to a tourist attraction at a discounted price - for example $20.

The scammer pockets the $20 and uses a stolen credit card number to purchase a full-price ticket for about $300.

The legitimate owner of the credit card disputes the charge, and the tourism operator is required by law to refund the money. 

Melbourne's Eureka Skydeck is one of several operators across Australia to be stung.

General manager John Forman says the scam cost his business thousands of dollars. 

"So it was a percentage of sales, about 12 per cent of online sales, we're having to charge back,” Mr Forman said.

“So, to date, it's cost our business $44,000. And that's charged back to credit cards that have been fraudulently used and stolen."

Dreamland, on Queensland's Gold Coast, was also among the attractions targeted. Sydney's Harbour Bridge Climb says it lost tens of thousands of dollars to the scam last year.

These tourists at Sydney's Circular Quay say they are wary of offers that seem too good to be true.

Tourism authorities say buying tickets directly from the operators of tourist attractions is the best way to ensure personal details remain safe - and a holiday is memorable for the right reasons.

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