Romance fraud may be a bigger threat to regional folk
LOVELORN people in regional Queensland could be more vulnerable to romance fraud because of the limited number of potential partners and the tyranny of distance.
The state's Fraud and Cyber Crime Group has issued a warning to the community as romance fraud continues to be criminal scourge across Queensland and Australia.
Queenslanders looking for love has in the first five months of this year averaged sending nearly $1 million in cash every month to Ghana and Nigeria.
Detective Superintendent Brian Hay said the consequences of such fraud could be "absolutely devastating, both personally and financially".
"In some instances victims struggle to recover emotionally and may never recover financially," he said.
"Unfortunately, many Queenslanders have fallen victim to this crime, with many complainants having lost in excess of $100,000.
"The consequences to the victims include acute depression, financial hardship, loss of friends and family as well as suffering physical ailments brought on by the stress of realising they have been defrauded of their life's savings."
Mr Hay urged people not to send money to any person they meet on the internet, regardless of how long they have known them and not to establish an online relationship where the person is representing themselves as being overseas and unable to meet in person.
"It is important friends and families play a support role in guiding loved ones through the online dating environment," Mr Hay said.
"If a protective network exists around a lonely person who is free and open to discuss their situation as it unfolds there is a greater likelihood that person won't fall victim to a fraudster.
"Fraudsters will try to isolate the victim from any family or support structure because they know this increases their chances of success."
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
- By creating fake profiles on legitimate internet dating services.
- Approaching you after having developed a profile which will appeal to you (after you have indicated the type of person you're looking for on your profile).
- They will interrogate you to establish your financial position and support network.
- They will seek to isolate you from your support network and quickly inundate you with a great deal of attention making you feel very special.
- They often claim to be retired servicemen or professionals working overseas in UK, USA or even elsewhere in Australia and will use an attractive photograph in the profile.
- They often have a child to care for - often claimed to be widowed.
- They exploit loneliness and the fear of ageing alone.
- They may take many months, to build what seems like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come. Once they have gained your trust they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details.
REASONS FOR MONEY
- Financial hardship
- To move money, gold or precious metals to Australia
- To purchase an airline ticket to visit you
- Visa application processing fee
- Medical bills for relatives
- Urgent medical bills for themselves after a severe accident (you may be contacted by the alleged doctor)
- They may also seek to introduce you to a relative or trusted entity who presents you with a unique business investment opportunity which will yield great returns
- They may seek to send you money and transfer money into your account which they then require you to send back - making you an international money launderer
- They may seek to make online purchases in Australia and have the goods delivered to your premises for on-forwarding to them - these purchases have been made with compromised credit cards and you become an international property mule.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam
- Check their IP address when possible
- Google image or Tineye image search to see if the image has been taken from the internet
- Look for an internet profile
- Ask them to send you a photograph of them holding the local daily paper
- Always confide and discuss your situation with a friend
- Never meet without a friend beside you
- Never send money overseas
- Always seek independent legal and financial advice before investing
- Never disclose bank details to a person you haven't met
- Never reveal too much personal information
- Never allow your address to be a deliver point for purchases
- Never agree to transfer money
- Don't trust Skype messages (can be pre-recorded)
- Don't fall for the fantasy dream
- Contact the Fraud and Cyber Crime Group if you wish to discuss your circumstances - 3364 6622.