The mother of a teenage cybercriminal is suing four major Australian banks for what she alleges is their part in helping her son launder $200,000 he received from running an eBay auction scam when he was only 14.
The woman, from the New South Wales coast — her exact location was not specified — is seeking damages from the Commonwealth Bank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac Bank for "unconscionable conduct" after she says they gave her son dozens of debit cards and let him open numerous bank accounts "without reasonable scrutiny." The teen then used these accounts to process money from his illegal online scam, Eamonn Duff from the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The boy's story is fascinating, and reads like a Hollywood film script. In 2007, when the boy was 14, he began selling fictitious products on eBay, swindling victims with the promise of laptops, mobile phones and watches. He opened several bank accounts, which he then funneled his fraudulent earnings through, simply by presenting the bank teller with a birth certificate and bringing along a friend over 18 who posed as his legal guardian, his mother said.
Like a freewheeling, carefree and arrogant villain from the movies, the teen scammer began spending his newly stolen money audaciously. He "lived a playboy lifestyle," Duff said, clothing himself in Versace and Prada, buying Louis Vuitton luggage, flying his friends across the country and staying in rented luxury apartments, including a penthouse overlooking Sydney Harbor that cost $4,300 per night.
"There I was, a single mum of two, desperately struggling to put food on the table," his mother said. "He, meanwhile, would stroll in after feasting at the latest fancy restaurant of his choice and chuck me leftovers in a plastic tub."
"He was an intelligent boy who worked out how to cheat the system and play it for all it was worth," the mother added.
The teenage crook also used his stolen online auction funds to withdraw money from his numerous accounts; when one account was closed due to overdrawing, he would tap into another account and continue taking out money. "The moment one got closed, it was his cue to open another," the mother said. "It became an addiction." He was eventually caught when police traced the eBay fraud to an IP address attached to a classroom computer.
The boy's mother said once she found her son was scamming people, she alerted the banks that had given him debit cards and urged them to shut down his accounts, but they refused to do so. She claims she also contacted companies her son made large purchases from, including travel centers, limousine companies and hotels, but they all told her the banks were the only ones who could resolve the problem.
But the mother said she got nowhere with the banks, and their inaction is what led her to bring the case to court.
"To this day, they refuse to acknowledge it was their accounts being used to launder money, and their overdrafts to commit more crime," she said.
The mother's case against the banks will return to court in November.