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By Rowan Forster

When Damian Cromwell approached a Coles checkout in Pakenham with 21 iTunes gift cards, he didn’t suspect he was being swindled out of more than $2000.

The Pakenham father has joined a growing tally of victims, fleeced by international fraudsters purporting to be a part of a sophisticated Telstra task-force which, ironically, claims to target scammers.

Mr Cromwell received a call from the scammers on Wednesday afternoon, and felt compelled to act.

After providing his bank details to the caller, Mr Cromwell was told to purchase 21 iTunes gift cards, valued at $100 each.

“They told me I was an operative acting as a part of their sting on scammers,” he said.

Mr Cromwell then visited three different supermarkets, purchasing a haul of gift cards before reciting the activation codes to the con artists.

“They said they’d call me back in an hour and then I knew something was wrong,” he said.

After liaising with Telstra, Mr Cromwell’s fears were realised — he had been fleeced.

He has since rebuffed comparisons to film icon Forrest Gump.

“I’m not Einstein but I’m not Forrest Gump either,” he said.

“These people are professional parasites.

“It’s devastated me and now I have to borrow money off my mum until my next payday.”

He said it was the first time he had ever been scammed.

It comes as Victoria Police have warned residents of Melbourne’s south east to be wary of savy scammers who are impersonating debt collectors from the Australian Taxation Office.

The caller tells the victim there is also an arrest warrant out due to their outstanding arrears and they will soon be arrested.

The victim is then told to stay on the phone and go to their local back to withdraw a large amount of money before depositing the cash into an ATM.

Consumer Affairs advises people to protect themselves from scammers by taking the following steps:

*Be wary of online sellers offering goods and well-known brands at extremely low prices.

*Do not provide an upfront payment to a stranger via money order or wire transfer.

*When selling items online, do not follow the links in a payment notification email to check whether the payment has arrived — log into your account directly.

*Be wary of unsolicited emails, phone calls or letters saying you have unclaimed funds or are owed money.

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