Sunday, September 02, 2012
RICH PICKINGS FOR ONLINE DATING FRAUD
(AUSTRALIA) MORE than $10 million a month is being sent overseas by 10,000 Australians to bogus love interests.
Julia Robson, lead detective for a service which investigates the validity of online daters - says thousands of people are being scammed by gangs pretending to be the men and women of the dreams of lonely hearts across the country. "I have cases of people who have signed over $350,000 to these people they have never met ... people have mortgaged their homes ... they have lost everything," Ms Robson said.
DateScreen receives about 20 alerts every day but Ms Robson said there were no true statistics because the issue is grossly under-reported because victims are either embarrassed or remain unaware they are being scammed. "The gangs doing this, they are moving around and that makes it harder to track them," Ms Robson said. "It's no longer just the Nigerian scams you have to watch out for. They have moved into places like Malaysia and there are a lot of people running scams from the UK and US. "The people who are more targeted are those who are older and those first time online, who are not familiar with online etiquette."
Balaklava vineyard worker Des Gregor, 60, knows just how dangerous the online dating game can be. In 2007, Mr Gregor was kidnapped and held hostage for 12 days in Mali when he went there to see his African queen whom he had met online. "That was the most frightening experience of my life ... I really thought I would be killed," Mr Gregor said. Despite that terrifying experience, Mr Gregor still has online dating profiles but he now is wary of the traps and has offered advice to others.
Just three weeks ago, he was targeted by another scam. This time it was linked to Riverland town Lyrup. "I probably get half a dozen girls message my profiles each week," he said. "If they are from Africa, I don't even look at it. This one though said she was from Lyrup, so I thought I'd give her a bit of a go and replied to her message. She wrote back and said she was going to live in Ghana for various reasons. I never responded to that and four days later I got another email from her saying her parents were both dead and they had big properties that had been sold and if I could send some money the funds from those sales would be released to me ... the scam had started."
Mr Gregor said online daters should be wary of potential partners who claim their mother is African and their father is from Australia, the UK or US because that was a typical profile for the online scammers.