Woman sues Australian banks over son's eBay scam

The Commonwealth Bank, pictured, confirms it will defend the charges in the Supreme Court.

Story highlights

  • Woman seeks damages over the scam, a bank spokesman says
  • Reports: She claims banks ignored her after she warned accounts were issued to minor
  • Boy funded lavish lifestyle with eBay scam
An Australian woman is suing the nation's top four banks for their alleged role in laundering money from her teenage son's $200,000 eBay scam that afforded him a $6,000-a-day playboy lifestyle.
Australian media reported that in 2007, the then 14 year old boy was making so much money selling non-existent laptops, mobile phones and watches on eBay he could afford to book a $4300-a-night penthouses overlooking Sydney Harbour, fly friends interstate for lavish parties and hire limousines to take him to the beach.
A spokesman for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia confirmed to CNN that the woman from the south coast of New South Wales, who along with her son cannot be named for legal reasons, had launched an action in the Supreme Court seeking damages over the scam.
Reports said she was seeking an apology from the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB for ''unconscionable conduct'' after allegedly allowing her son to open numerous bank accounts with debit cards "without reasonable scrutiny".
She claims the banks ignored her or refused to discuss the matter for privacy reasons when she warned them they had issued accounts that were being used by a minor to bank illegal funds, reports said.
''He was an intelligent boy who worked out how to cheat the system and play it for all it was worth,'' she told Australia's Sun Herald newspaper. ''As his parent and legal guardian, I begged the banks to stop giving him accounts and debit cards but each time I got nowhere because of the Privacy Act.''
She said her suspicions were aroused four years ago when her son began spending lavishly. She told the Sun-Herald she later uncovered a log book listing thousands of dollars worth of transactions with eBay.
The boy, now 19, allegedly deceived the Commonwealth Bank into opening an account after fronting up to the bank with a birth certificate and a friend over the age of 18 who claimed to be his guardian, according to reports in Australian media.
''Once he secured that, he was able to accumulate check and Visa debit accounts with many other financial institutions including Westpac, the Bank of Queensland, ANZ, Credit Union Australia and the Hume Building Society,'' the mother was quoted as saying in the Sun-Herald report.
Police eventually arrested the boy at school after many of the frauds were linked to an IP address attached to a classroom computer.
By the time of his arrest, the boy was already allegedly working another scam, milking the $1,500 overdraft facility on a series of debit accounts. In the meantime, reports said, the boy lived a playboy lifestyle with shopping sprees for Versace and Prada clothes and Louis Vuitton luggage.
''There I was, a single mum of two, desperately struggling to put food on the table. He, meanwhile, would stroll in after feasting at the latest fancy restaurant of his choice and chuck me leftovers in a plastic tub,'' she told the Sun-Herald
Underneath the exterior, her son was an ''insecure boy out to impress,'' she told the newspaper. Reports said that during the past four years, she had reluctantly handed her son to the police 15 times.