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Clown, 1000 balloons and dog exterminator embroiled in scam

Kurt Spicer and partner Kiara McAvan have been targeted by a phone pest using their identities to order a bizarre array of goods and services to an acquaintance's home. Their exhaustive list of false orders just keeps growing.
Kurt Spicer and partner Kiara McAvan have been targeted by a phone pest using their identities to order a bizarre array of goods and services to an acquaintance's home. Their exhaustive list of false orders just keeps growing. Neville Madsen

THE past fortnight has been a living hell for three Toowoomba victims of a bizarre hoax that began with a fake pizza order before quickly entering the realm of the ridiculous.

Harlaxton resident Margaret Starkey answered a knock on her door on Tuesday, January 10 to find a Domino's delivery driver waiting with eight pizzas, two garlic breads and five bottles of Coca-Cola.

When she told the driver the order was not for her, he rang the phone number given by the original caller.

In Harlaxton, Kiara McAvan's phone started to buzz.

The driver asked for her partner Kurt Spicer - an acquaintance of Ms Starkey - whose name had been used by the mystery caller.

Confused, but not overly concerned, the trio wrote it off as a strange mistake or practical joke.

I've had three different pest control companies try to spray my yard for fleas... I'll probably have another five this week

The next day, Ms McAvan was called by a publishing company wanting to speak to her partner about the bible, the Jehovah's Witness movement and the book he was apparently trying to write.

Alarm bells started ringing, but still it seemed like a harmless prank.

By Friday, everything had changed.

First a towing company called to remove a non-existent Holden Barina, before a truck load of landscaping blocks arrived at Ms Starkey's home.

By the time she had convinced them the order was a fake, someone had turned up to install a sound system in her car.

Over the next five hours, a plastering business came to do a quote on her house and two taxis showed up along with a party hire company delivering a jumping castle, 1000 balloons and a jukebox.

To top it off, a children's clown was also there to entertain the fictional party.

Then things turned sour.

Ms Starkey said she had a visitor from the Toowoomba pound who already had her dog in his custody, ready to "put him down", due to an apparent bout of parvovirus.

"I had to physically snatch him out of his arms and explain that it was all a hoax," she said.

"I have a new-born baby staying with me and my own baby boy and I have to spend all day every day convincing people I didn't order these things.

"I can't sleep because I'm always worrying about what is going to be waiting for me the next morning."

Over two weeks, Ms Starkey has turned away a wrecking company wanting to tow her and her father's cars, plumbers trying to fix fantasy problems with her home's pipes and numerous delivery drivers with cash-on-delivery electrical goods.

"I've had three different pest control companies try to spray my yard for fleas," she said.

"I'll probably have another five this week."

The list goes on.

All the while, Ms McAvan has fielded irate calls from businesses looking for Mr Spicer.

The couple has reported the hoax to police with Ms Starkey by their side.

They still have no leads as to the identity of the impersonating pest.

"We called the companies and they said it was a young male," Ms McAvan said.

"I just want businesses to know there is a massive hoax going on so they can be wary if they get a call.

"It's really sad. I don't know how much money they have already lost because of this."

Ms Starkey believed her weekend reprieve from the infuriating ruse would end by start-of-business this morning.

"I've never heard of anything like it," she said.

"It's just ridiculous."

Businesses stung by the phone pest should contact Policelink (131 444).

Topics:  editors picks, hoax, identity theft



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