Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Romance scammers take $11 million off West Australians

WHEN Janet was contacted by an engineer on a dating website last year, she thought she had found a nice, good-looking man who was fascinating to talk to on the phone. But during the next five months, the 70-year-old lost a five-figure sum before realising scammers were pretending to be her Australian beau working in Kuala Lumpur.

After romancing Janet, “Richard McCarthy” told her he had problems with his engineering contract, had lost his credit card and needed a loan.

“He needed money for parts and asked for it to be put into his Malaysian business account, but always promised he would pay it back and even put that in writing,” Janet said.

“I began to get suspicious when we could never meet in person despite him travelling through Perth.

“I went to the airport to meet him once and he wasn’t there.”

A friend did an internet image search of his photos and revealed the scam to Janet.

“I felt betrayed and emotionally abused, and I still struggle to get my head around how somebody could be so wicked,” she said.

“Financially, it’s been a disaster, but the betrayal of trust is worse.”

The scammers used stolen photos of NSW actor and musician Clive Hodson.

“The fact that somebody can hide behind my photographs is very disturbing,” Mr Hodson said.

Janet was among 164 victims of romance fraud who lost a total of almost $11 million – the equivalent of $66,000 each – last year.

In total, 657 people reported losing $16.8 million with other scams involving investments, buying and selling online, business and technology.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said romance fraudsters targeted the lonely, vulnerable, isolated and elderly.

Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Potter said without Project Sunbird – a joint anti-fraud initiative with Consumer Protection – the numbers could have been higher.

He said more than 2000 letters had been sent since 2013, with the first letter leading to 60 per cent of victims ceasing to send money.

Those who continued received another letter, and about 40 per cent stopped after that.

Det Snr Sgt Potter said work with Nigerian authorities continued to bring offenders in west Africa to justice, but there were fraudsters in other countries including China, Turkey and Malaysia.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/romance-scammers-take-11-million-off-west-australians/story-fnhocxo3-1227186042733?nk=8c8626dd2040c98b0887f5250de475a1

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January 19, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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