Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Lovelorn Aussie farmers get fleeced online

By KELLY BURKE – SMH | Friday, 01 August 2008

Dozens of lonely hearts in rural NSW and Queensland have been the prey of a dating agency that has been dodging Australian authorities for eight years.

 

Men seeking romance were lured by photographs of glamorous young women apparently itching to get hitched to a farmer.

Under the slogan “Bringing the country together”, the Rural Network introduction agency, of Tweed Heads, milked men for thousands of dollars, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)alleges.

The service pressured its customers to continually increase their membership contributions to have access to more women, the ACCC says, but it led men on by obtaining payment for goods or services without an intention to supply. In some cases the photographs and profiles of women used in printed advertisements were fabrications of Rural Network’s staff.

The allegations date back as far as October 17, 2000, and the ACCC began pursuing Rural Network and a related dating agency, the now deregistered Country Contact Club, in 2005.

In March the ACCC obtained Australian Federal Court injunctions and declarations against the Rural Network and its director, Leanne McDonald, who also uses the names Lana McDonald, Leanne Viney, Lana Viney and Leanne Nolo.

In making his orders, Justice Jeffrey Spender said the agency’s conduct was “not only serious but calculated and quite callous”.

The agency agreed to refund almost A$120,000 to 35 men who had been told a “compatible person” had expressed a desire to meet them and would be introduced once additional membership fees were paid.

“This was predatory conduct whereby Rural Network staff would determine a member’s assets and income and seek to ‘upgrade’ his membership in order to maximise revenues,” the ACCC’s chairman, Graeme Samuel, said at the time.

The ACCC says Ms McDonald has refused to honour the undertakings, which included refunding money to past clients, writing to new customers to “inform them of the misleading and deceptive conduct she had previously been involved in”, and payment of the ACCC’s court costs.

Yesterday, a reincarnation of Rural Network, Chances Consulting, was still operating a website, proclaiming itself as “one of Australia’s largest and most respected introduction agencies who has [sic] caters for the needs of singles looking for romance in Australia and New Zealand”.

Ms McDonald told the Sydney Morning Herald that said she “massively contested” the ACCC’s allegations and would continue to dispute them.

“I have numerous entities. There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. “Use whatever name you want.”

The matter will return to the Australian Federal Court on September 5.

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August 14, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Leanne Mcdonald latest company is called For-real.com.au Previous companies have been Vitial connections, Chances Consulting and Rural Network.

    Comment by Old McDonald | April 5, 2013 | Reply


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