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Online scams surge in 2019 with WA victims ripped off by more than $1.8 million

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Updated

February 07, 2019 15:36:59

A Perth woman who was fleeced of almost $500,000 after being duped over a Dubai hotel project was one of 86 West Australians who fell victim to scammers in the first month of the year.

Key points:

  • A man on a dating website used fake documents to get money from the woman
  • A second woman lost more than $300,000 investing in a fake mining company
  • West Australians coughed up a total of $1.81 million to scam artists in January

The woman, 65, was contacted through a dating website by a person who claimed to be working on the hotel project in the United Arab Emirates.

He proceeded to call the victim three times a day, asking for money and producing fake loan documents to justify his requests.

The woman paid the man $468,500 over a period of three months before she was alerted by her bank that she may have been targeted by fraudsters.

It was the biggest individual loss during the month of January, with West Australians handing over a total of $1.81 million to scam artists.

Breakdown of WA scams

Scam category No. of Victims Sum of $ Lost Max of $ Lost
Attempts to gain your personal information 11 $118,939 $80,000
Buying or selling 40 $39,153 $10,000
Dating and romance 13 $733,807 $468,590
Investments 7 $646,335 $308,442
Threats and extortion 11 $52,690 $30,000
Unexpected winnings 4 $219,800 $200,000
 Grand Total 86 $1,810,724 468590

Source: Department of Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection’s Lanie Chopping said it was unlikely the woman would recoup her losses from the romance scam.

“Once people have transferred money to a scammer offshore, it’s highly doubtful that they will ever see that money again,” she said.

“Romance scams can be financially devastating and emotionally devastating because people are emotionally invested in the relationship.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

Woman lost life savings in fake gold scheme

In another case, a 55-year-old Kalgoorlie woman lost more than $300,000 after investing in a fake mining company.

She had purchased shares in gold and made a series of other investments through a firm she found on the internet.

The woman, who does not want to be named, said she thought the company was legitimate. 

“We invested in gold to start with and then they rang and asked if I wanted to invest in a business takeover,” she said.

“We started off with 50,000 shares, and then they rang and talked me into buying another 100,000 shares, and it just went from there.

“It just ended up escalating … they weren’t bullying me but they were suggestive and convincing that this was the protocol of what you were meant to do.”

The woman said she became suspicious after a few months, when the company kept delaying her dividend payments.

She said she had lost her entire life savings and now her and her partner were dependent on their children. 

“I’ll never get my money back but if I can stop someone else from doing this stupid act then I’ve achieved something,” she said.

“I just think [the scammers] are scum and I never thought in a million years that there were people out there like this.”

The woman has urged others to do more research before making an investment and to only deal with Australian companies.

‘A really bad month’ for scams

Consumer Protection would not reveal the name of the company involved because it was under investigation.

Ms Chopping said the case was just one part of a poor start to the year.

“It’s been a really bad month for West Australians in relation to scams,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to know who to trust.

“If you have money you want to invest, go to the MoneySmart website, get some really good advice and make sure you know who you’re dealing with.”

Last year, 569 West Australians lost a total of $10.7 million to scammers.

Topics:

consumer-protection,

human-interest,

law-crime-and-justice,

crime,

perth-6000,

wa

First posted

February 07, 2019 14:03:18

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