Queensland Police have issued an urgent warning to the public after discovering what they’ve described as “a disturbing development in romance and online scams”.
A man posing as an American soldier has been charged with fraud after allegedly scamming a Brisbane woman out of $305,000 in an online romance scam.
Police say the 34-year-old woman began an online romantic relationship with the man after befriending him on social media in October, 2018. Over the next few months, the victim was groomed into believing the stories provided by the man and sent him more than $200,000 through a money transfer service.
The 32-year-old man, also from Brisbane, then travelled to the woman’s house to collect a further $105,000. Following the meeting, the victim became suspicious and after confiding in a close friend, she reported the matter to police.
Detectives from the Queensland Police Service’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group arrested the offender on Thursday while he was attempting to induce the victim to hand over more money.
He has been charged with one count each of fraud and attempted fraud and is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday. A Durack address was raided in relation to the case and a number of items used as part of the scam were found by detectives.
Superintendent Terry Lawrence said this was a common scam worldwide.
“The US Army Criminal Investigation Command receives hundreds of complaints a month from people who find themselves involved in an online relationship with someone purporting to be a US soldier. This is a common scam worldwide.
“Usually the offender’s interaction with the victim is all online so this further step of travelling to the victim’s home is certainly something we need the public to hear and be warned of today.”
Online love scams have become a growing issue around the world, as sophisticated scammers target lonely and often quite vulnerable people and rob them of their savings – all while convincing them they’re in a loving relationship.
According to cyber support service ID care, relationship scams cost Australians and New Zealanders, on average, $83,977 per event, and it often takes victims 10.4 months to detect the scam.
Superintendent Lawrence urged those using social media platforms to take note that these scams are occurring and to warn their friends and family who could be susceptible to the scam.
“Take the time to evaluate the relationship, talk to friends and other loved ones about your new relationship online. We are thankful the victim in this instance took this step.”
The Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) says you should never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, to always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, to be alert to things like inconsistencies in their back story and to be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos.