A Victorian couple have been scammed out of $139,000 after they tried to buy a Mercedes-Benz – but Mercedes still wants payment.

Wendy Angliss and Derrick Thompson lodged legal action against car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd after an invoice scam totalling $139,000.

The couple from Point Lonsdale in Victoria attempted to pay a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Geelong for a luxury GLE 400d SUV, but later found a scammer had intercepted their emails, provided a doctored invoice and swindled them out of multiple transfers to an incorrect account.

After performing three transfers of $40,000 and an additional transfer of $19,000 to a bank account used by a scammer, the couple has taken matters to the Victorian County Court.

Angliss and Thompson are suing the car manufacturer over the missing sum, arguing they would not have made the consecutive payments if they were provided correct bank details.

“The plaintiffs would not have made any payments to the Westpac account if the defendant had specified payment into the ANZ account,” their writ states.

Furthermore, the couple suggests they would have stopped after making their first payment if they had been made aware the first transfer was to an incorrect account, and that they would have also “taken steps” to recover the payment.

“The plaintiffs would not have made the second, third or fourth transfers if they had been told the first transfer was to an incorrect account,” their writ states.

According to court documents, Angliss emailed receipts of the transfers to Mercedes-Benz, and these receipts were acknowledged despite Mercedes never receiving the payments.

Although the transfers were made between 28 February and 2 March, it wasn’t until 7 March that a Mercedes employee alerted the couple the money had not been received.

Ultimately, Angliss and Thompson claim the company’s conduct was a breach of Australian Consumer Law, but this hasn’t stopped Mercedes-Benz from filing a counterclaim.

In its defence and counterclaim, Mercedes-Benz argues the couple breached their contract because they had not completed the purchase of the vehicle – and is seeking both a trade-in-vehicle which Angliss and Thompson had not supplied (worth $17,292.47), and payment of the $139,000 which got caught up in the scam.

Mercedes-Benz claims it sought confirmation the funds had been paid to the correct account, once on 7 March and again on 14 March.

As for the fake invoice used during the scam, Mercedes-Benz said the email containing the invoice came from a BigPond address and was “not sent by the defendant or the Dealer”.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the couple’s lawyer, Bruce King, said scammers altered the Mercedes-Benz invoice PDF file to substitute the BSB and account number for a different account.

“The altered PDF invoice was identical with the original but the bank account details on it had been changed, presumably using some program like Adobe,” said King.

“There was no way on its face that anyone could tell it had been altered.”

In a statement to Information Age, a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson suggested the email interception was “completely independent” of the company’s email systems.

“We are aware of an unfortunate incident involving the compromise of a customer’s personal email account and following a thorough internal investigation we are satisfied that the email interception was completely independent of our invoicing and email systems, and those of our retailer,” they said.

“As the matter is now before the court, we are unable to comment further.”

The company further argued Angliss contributed to the couple’s damages by not having adequate IT or password security on her email account, and by failing to take adequate steps to verify the bank account details before making the transfers.

The company denied that it breached a duty of care owed to the couple.

Some 30,939 false billing scams have been reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch this year, causing around $24 million in losses and already exceeding the total number of reports for 2022.