It was a month of constant emails and texts before Colin asked her for money, through another scammer posing as his lawyer. I have met so many really intelligent people who have been victims of romance scams. This is big business, this is organised crime. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard Losing everything for love Annette had been talking to a scammer for about a month when his lawyer called her, claiming her supposed partner had had a serious accident at work and needed money.
It was like I was on my own dealing with everything and all I had was this lifeline. He knew that, and he used that on me, and along with the band of them, they totally manipulated me all the way through.
Her family tried to stop her, telling her it was definitely a con. Several times she was detained by customs and questioned about the large sum of money she was carrying, and accused of smuggling drugs. Afraid for her safety, she handed over the cash but kept the cheque, which she banked when she got back to Australia. He was trying to put doubt in any way possible in my head that my family were setting it up. She knew she had been conned, and she wanted her scammers held to account.
Potential for murder What begins as a romance scam often turns into victims being used as drug mules, according to the consumer watchdog. More often what starts as a romance scam morphs into the victims being used as a drug mule. I cannot stress strongly enough, you have the potential for a long period in prison, you have the potential for murder.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard says love scammers are "slick" and perfectly capable of fooling intelligent people into giving up their money. People are groomed over many months convincing them to travel overseas and return to Australia with additional luggage pieces or gifts, which when examined by authorities are sometimes found to contain illicit drugs.
Two petitioned for bankruptcy after handing over tens of thousands of dollars. She ran up some big credit card debts and got some personal loans. Child and Family Services financial counsellor Steve Symons Mr Symons, who has seen transcripts of conversations with the con men, said he was surprised by how convincing they were.
Look out for requests for money orders, wire transfers or international funds transfer. Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided. Are you being targeted to bring drugs into Australia? To sign paperwork or release money? Has someone sent you money to pay for your holiday? Have you sent money overseas after being approached by a person or company to do so? Has someone asked you to bring a bag, suitcase or a gift back into Australia? The contact revolves around any number of scams involving the person sending money to a specific location.
Examples of scams we have seen include romance, sick children, lottery, inheritance, advance fee, fake cheque and dummy investigation scams.
The person is told that they need to sign paperwork in a another country, most often an Asian country, to release the money they are promised during the course of the scam, sometimes tens of millions of dollars.
They generally send their passport details including a photo to the scammer so the scammer can book their ticket. Once in the foreign country the person will be in a hotel room for a few days, also booked by the scammer. The scammer will remain in contact via email and phone but never meet in person. They may move the person around to different hotels but never meet up in person. A person will generally show up to the room finally and give the person an airline ticket and hotel booking somewhere in Australia.
They will come up with a fictitious reason which usually involves documents required to be signed in Australia. They will ask the person to bring back a bag with gifts for the contact in Australia. The bag will contain drugs within the contents of the bag or the lining. How should people notify authorities if they think themselves or a family member is being scammed?
If you are overseas and believe you may be a victim of this sort of scam, do not accept any property from scammers or provide them with any personal details.