Criminologist officially joins WA anti-fraud initiative
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A Queensland criminologist is in Perth this week and has officially joined the WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Consumer Protection anti-fraud initiative Project Sunbird.
Dr Cassandra Cross is a leading expert in the area of online fraud following years of research involving victim interviews and work with authorities in Australia, the UK and Canada.
Since it began in 2012 Project Sunbird has sent more than 2,900 letters to suspected relationship and investment fraud victims in WA who have been sending money to West Africa (e.g. Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo).
Dr Cross is delighted to be involved in the Western Australian campaign.
“I first came into contact with Project Sunbird when I was asked to assist with the wording of letters to suspected fraud victims,” she said.
“It’s fantastic to hear that those letters are having a significant impact and that up to six out of ten receivers of the letters stop transferring funds altogether.
“Now I am working on other educational material for Project Sunbird and conducting interviews with West Australians who have lost money in online-based frauds.”
In response to getting a letter, or hearing about Project Sunbird via the media, almost 190 people have contacted Sunbird officers, based out of WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection, to regrettably report a total combined monetary loss of over $11,200,000.
Dr Cross is not surprised by the figures.
“My experience is that anyone can be in a vulnerable position and these organised criminals are incredibly skilled at grooming their targets when the time is right,” she said.
“Becoming involved in a request for money scam does not mean someone is stupid and I would urge the community to focus on the need to help relationship and investment fraud victims who are often left emotionally, as well as financially, devastated.
“I applaud the WA Police Major Fraud Squad’s work with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which has led to arrests and convictions of fraudsters based in Africa.”
Dr Cross will present a Seniors Online Security Session to Retirees WA members today (Friday 18 July 2014). Community engagement officers from WA Police and community education officers from Consumer Protection will present the sessions to other seniors groups going forward.
Posters are now on display at police stations across metropolitan Perth and remote and regional WA to advise fraud victims of how to get in touch with Project Sunbird. Wire transfer outlets, Community Resource Centres, financial counsellors and other community stakeholders are also beginning to promote the helpline number and website address (1300 30 40 54 and www.scamnet.wa.gov.au/projectsunbird).
The success of Project Sunbird is being monitored by other states and territories and the activities may be mirrored elsewhere in Australia.
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