Police believe there could be dozens of victims linked to a “cruel” romance scam across Australia after two elderly men came forward with their stories.
- Investigations began once the elderly men came forward
- Police alleged they were defrauded of almost half a million dollars
- Three people are due to face court
The two men — one from near Toowoomba and another from Far North Queensland — signed up to what they thought was a personal advertisement for paid dating service last year, according to police.
Once the men paid the service they were put into contact with a woman who claimed to be a widow aged in her 50s.
Police said as they got to know each other the woman asked for large sums of money, which she allegedly needed to get out of a work contract.
Both men paid the woman large sums of money — of $42,000 and $343,500 respectively — before they eventually went to police.
Officers said the Toowoomba man spoke with police after a friend suggested the relationship may have been a scam, while it wasn’t until the woman ceased contact before the Far North Queensland man reported the matter to police in March.
Police said they investigated the matter, and in July they raided three Gold Coast properties and arrested two women.
Police allege they found almost $80,000 cash hidden inside pillows during a raid at a Benowa property.
Searches lead to third alleged victim
Police said they found evidence during the searches which allegedly led them to a third victim involved in the same scam.
They allege a man aged in his 50s was defrauded of more $111,000.
But officers believe more victims could be out there and the investigation is ongoing.
Far North High Risk Investigations Team officer Matthew Hogan said dozens of people across the country could be impacted.
“To defraud any person is horrible, but to specifically seek out mature people who may be vulnerable, it’s cruel and QPS will investigate all matters, until alleged offenders are before the court and support is provided to those victims,” Detective Sergeant Hogan said.
“We urge anyone who has information which could assist in investigating fraudulent activity, to come forward.”
While shame and embarrassment is often a barrier to victims reporting alleged romance scams, Detective Acting Inspector Jason Chetham said police are happy to listen.
“We’re happy to listen to people’s story in a non-judgemental way, we can also provide support services to them, if they have been the victims of crime,” he said.
“They’re not the offenders, they’re the victims and we need to understand that, and we’re focused on helping them.”
Acting Inspector Chetham said people should be wary of those who ask for money while to establish a relationship.
“These kind of offenders prey on emotions, and it’s very difficult for people to see the wider context, but I guess if you find yourself in this situation having to pay money to get an introduction to people, that’s a red flag straight away,” he said.
Three people charged
Police said the three men were allegedly defrauded of $496,578.
A 52-year-old Benowa woman has been charged with five counts of fraud and one count each of receiving tainted property, possessing tainting property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically.
A 29-year-old Benowa woman has also been charged with five counts of fraud.
They are due to face Southport Magistrates Court on October 3.
A 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man was charged with four counts of fraud after he presented to Broadbeach Police Station.
He is due to face Southport Magistrates Court on September 18.