Perth widow loses $600,000 to online dating scam This happens a lot more than what we think.I watched a report on the news about this tonight. This was a very complex organised scam, fake bank accounts, fake share certificates, fake brochures etc. The only think you can do to avoid this these days is check in with the scamwatch authorities in each state.Everything can look so real anyone might believe it, let alone a widow just looking for a new life and love. The awful thing is she has been conned for everything she had.
A PERTH widow has lost more than $600,000 in an elaborate romance scam involving overseas fraudsters, prompting the Commissioner for Consumer Protection to issue a formal warning.
The woman, who has two children aged 16 and 17, is now homeless, jobless, without a car and has filed for bankruptcy after meeting a man on a dating website, in November 2009.
Her husband died 11 years ago and she went online in search of a partner.
The man she met online told her that he was of Greek origin and living in Maine, USA, with business interests in West Africa.
The man then began calling his victim almost every day and, after chatting with her for a month, invited her to invest in an oil export project in the vicinity of the Nigerian/Cameroon border.
Over a 12-month period, she sent large amounts of money to bank accounts in Singapore and California as well as wire transfers through Western Union, lured by promises of a generous return on her investment.
She was sent numerous fake documents and certificates supposedly from lawyers and accountants in the US and Nigeria to support their claims. Plans for the man to visit Australia were cancelled at the last minute for a variety of reasons.
To finance this supposed business venture, the victim borrowed against her Redcliffe home and an investment property in Swan View, both of which she was eventually forced to sell. She also borrowed money from family and friends before coming to the realisation that she had been thoroughly and professionally scammed.
“I was lonely and the kids are grown up now so I thought I could have a man to grow old with,” the woman said. “It was like Christopher hypnotised me into a false sense of a dream of what could be possible. I am back to reality now and I want my life and home back.”
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll warned other women who may be dealing with fraudsters on dating websites.
“Romance scams target vulnerable people and the fraudsters build up trust and use fake documents and websites to support their claims,” Ms Driscoll said.
“The person perpetrating this scam is a professional conman. There is no sense of remorse as he has cold heartedly groomed his victim with regular telephone calls and promises that have convinced her to send money overseas.
“People searching for partners online should never entertain business propositions or send money to people they have never met in person or don’t know they can trust. Protect your identity and personal details and don’t be blinded by love. At the very least get some independent financial advice if you do not want to confide in family or friends.
“Consumer Protection receives numerous reports from victims of romance scams who have lost thousands of dollars and the emotional and financial effects from their experience are often quite devastating.”
The woman’s complaint to WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection has also been reported to the WA Police for further investigation.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has estimated that money lost by Australians in romance scams totalled $6.5 million in 2009. In WA, it’s estimated romance fraud has cost almost $1 million so far this year, including this latest scam.
WA ScamNet has got more information and advice about romance scams atwww.commerce.wa.gov.au/wascamnet