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How a ‘very charming’ man named Kevin swindled a Sydney woman out of $220,000 | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


When a Sydney woman met Kevin online, she was swept off her feet. He said all the right things and shared photos of his extended family and his impressive jet-set lifestyle.

“Everything he said was very sweet and very charming,” she said.

‘Kevin’ on the ski fields.Credit:Instagram

The photos of himself he sent were of a mature-age man on visits to Paris and London, skiing in Norway and drinking fine wine. There were selfies of him with his family, a video of his daughter playing piano and even one of him skydiving. He said he was a businessman based in Singapore and aged in his 40s.

“He was a good-looking man and well-dressed,” she said. “He was always eating good food, drinking good wine and travelling to great places.”

Kevin first made contact in response to her Instagram posting and she added him as a friend.

After months of late-night phone calls and online correspondence, the seduction was complete. Having gained her trust, Kevin casually introduced her to the MetaTrader 5 trading platform and persuaded her to invest more than $220,000 on cryptocurrency trading.

The victim of a romance scam.Credit:James Alcock

When it became clear she had no more money to invest, the scam quickly unravelled and her money was gone.

The Australian Federal Police issued a warning on Wednesday after 15 Australians, who thought they had found love, were identified as being money mules under a national anti-money laundering campaign. The victims, who did not include the Sydney woman interviewed by the Herald, had unwittingly transferred illicit money on behalf of members of criminal syndicates.

AFP cybercrime operations commander Chris Goldsmid said some criminals were preying on lonely Australians online and tricking them into money laundering crimes.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch reports that more than $38 million has been lost this year as a result of more than 3350 reports of dating and romance scams.

The Sydney woman who spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity said she transferred money to a company called Sophie Capital, which she was told changed its name to Victoria Capital. Both company names are registered with ASIC.

Before discovering she had been conned, Victoria Capital contacted her in late October to say her money was frozen because her account was under investigation for international money laundering. She was later told she would need to pay an extra $250,000 to bail herself out.

The email the Sydney woman received saying her account had been frozen.

The email the Sydney woman received saying her account had been frozen.Credit:

The trading app Kevin provided, which was a live site, appeared authentic because it showed she was making money on her trades in real time. What she saw turned out to be an imitation of the legitimate MT5 site.

Screen grab from fake online trading records.

Screen grab from fake online trading records.Credit:

The photos of Kevin were also fake. So was his name. When the Sydney woman questioned him, he eventually confessed he was 20 years old and trapped in a scamming operation run from a compound in Cambodia.

“I played his game and realised too late that I’d been set up,” the Sydney woman said. “I’m paying a big tuition fee for a big lesson.”

The man using the name Kevin told her his bosses would punish him for not doing the work and that he needed 300,000 Chinese Yuan ($63,000) to get released.

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The Herald recently revealed how organised crime gangs are luring workers with fraudulent job offers and forcing them to take part in multibillion-dollar cyber scams run from Cambodia to swindle Australians and people in other wealthy countries.

“He said he was in a building with more than 200 people and that they could make a few million US dollars on their floor,” she said.

“I’m so sad about how horribly they use people emotionally. I was like an open book to him.

“They are so smart. They know how to press the buttons of a woman’s loneliness and vulnerability.”

The woman reported the scam to the ACCC, AUSTRAC, IDCare and NSW Police.

A NSW Police spokesman said it was investigating her case and trying to follow the money trail.

“As the investigation is ongoing, initial inquiries suggest the fraud is quite a sophisticated scam posing as a romantic prospect,” he said.

AUSTRAC wrote to the woman, saying the information she provided “seems like this is a scam”.

A spokeswoman for ASIC said the registration of a company does not guarantee its legitimacy. “It is merely the creation of a legal structure,” the spokeswoman said. “ASIC does not endorse or approve companies.”

Global Anti-Scam Organisation (GASO), a scam victims’ advocacy group, said the MetaTrader (MT4 or MT5) app has been widely used for foreign exchange transactions.

A spokesman for GASO told the Herald the scam known as “pig butchering” was commonly run from compounds in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. He knew of at least four Australians who had been scammed this way. GASO has received more than 100 reports of Australians it estimates have lost more than $6.2 million.

“We know victims who have lost a few thousand dollars to a few million dollars,” he said. “ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission] and the AFP are waking up to these scams, and we work with contacts from the AFP.”

The GASO spokesman said some scam victims had committed suicide after borrowing money from family and through personal loans they could not repay, and discovering their investment, and the relationship they hoped for, turned out to be frauds.

Forbes has reported that the Apple App Store had removed the MT4 and MT5 app after discovering it had been used in cryptocurrency scams.

The Australian Federal Police has cracked down on a $100 million global sting run out of Sydney. Four Chinese nationals were charged earlier this month for their alleged involvement in a cyber investment scam which manipulates legitimate electronic trading platforms that deal in foreign exchange and cryptocurrency and which is unrelated to the Sydney woman the Herald interviewed. The men aged between 19 and 27 were charged with proceeds of crime related offences and are scheduled to appear in Downing Centre Local Court in January. An AFP spokesman said to date, victims identified in this unrelated cyber scam are from overseas, “however investigations remain ongoing and Australian victims cannot be ruled out”.

The ACCC has also received a growing number of reports about fake retail websites that impersonate genuine sites for brands including Macpac and Witchery, and offer bargain prices. The fake Macpac site offers discounts of up to 80 per cent.

Composite of the fake Macpac website (top) and the authentic website (bottom).

Composite of the fake Macpac website (top) and the authentic website (bottom).Credit:Screen grabs

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said it has received 58 reports about a fake Witchery website linked to $8900 in losses reported this year. The ACCC has received 61 reports about the fake Macpac website linked to about $7500 in losses.

“What we know is that scammers are capable of doing pretty much perfect impersonations of legitimate websites for real stores,” she said. “The giveaway is that they’ve got amazing prices.”

One man on Facebook said he had been scammed after buying items from a purported Macpac sale on Facebook and was thankful he made a “blessedly modest purchase”.

“I should have followed the axiom: ‘if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is!’” he said.

A Facebook user complains about falling for a sale advertised on a fake Macpac website.

A Facebook user complains about falling for a sale advertised on a fake Macpac website.Credit:Facebook

TIPS FROM NSW POLICE TO SAFEGUARD AGAINST ROMANCE SCAMS:

• Consider the possibility that the initial contact is a scam.
• Do an image search on your admirer to determine if they really are who they say they are.
• Be alert to things like spelling and grammatical mistakes and/or inconsistencies in stories.
• Other signs of a scam include the camera not working for Skype or other chat, and dramatic or elaborate excuses for not being able to meet in person (and repeated excuses).
• Don’t fall for their ‘sob’ stories, regardless of how convincing they sound.
• Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. This is considered money laundering and is a criminal offence.
• Be wary of requests for money. Never send money, give credit card details, online account details or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust or haven’t met.
• Be careful about how much personal information you share on social networking sites. Scammers often use these details and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam. Never volunteer your personal details or phone number.

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