Fraud education session for Geraldton community

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ConsumerSmall business and farmer

Consumer Protection and WA Police Major Fraud Squad will be holding an education session in Geraldton after it was identified that in recent months more than $1 million dollars has been sent to scammers in West Africa from the Midwest region alone.

Members of the community are invited to come along to the Geraldton RSL Club on 46 Chapman Road at 5.30pm, Tuesday 26 March 2013 to hear information and advice from officers who work on Project Sunbird.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw from WA Police Major Fraud Squad will be speaking and hopes there will be a good turnout.

“Community education about frauds is vital because it prevents people from getting caught out by organised criminals and can also prompt those who are unknowingly a victim of consumer fraud to break the cycle and stop sending money,” he said.

“While many may not think they are vulnerable to this type of fraud, we urge you to come along and find out the latest information about how these criminals operate so you can better protect your friends and your relatives.

“Our statistics show that the issue of money being sent from Western Australia to fraudsters in places like Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone is as much of a problem in the regions as it is in metro Perth.

“One of the key messages we will try to get across in Geraldton will be not to travel overseas in an attempt to meet someone you have been having an online/phone relationship with.

“This point has been highlighted in the worst possible way with the death of 67 year old Wagin widow Jette Jacobs who was allegedly murdered in South Africa in February after going to meet ‘Jesse Orowo Omokoh from Nigeria’ who she met on a dating website four years earlier.

“Since that case we have stopped a number of people from travelling to Nigeria including an Albany man; a Perth businessman and an elderly woman from Melbourne.”

Tips from Consumer Protection’s WA ScamNet will also be promoted:

  • Do not respond to out-of-the-blue social media messages from strangers requesting a relationship e.g. Facebook friend request.
  • Be on your guard if someone you meet on an online dating site asks you to take the conversation over to email or instant messaging.
  • Be wary of overseas-based singles especially if they confess their love for you after a short amount of time or want to know about your financial status.
  • Remember that just because someone shares personal photos does not mean the pictures are of them – scammers often steal other people’s photos.
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking that talking to somebody on the phone regularly means you know them and that they are who they say there are.
  • Be concerned if a person refuses to chat real-time via a webcam and be mindful that even Skype is not scammer proof – watch out for pre-recorded videos.
  • Alarm bells should ring if someone you do not know personally (have met face-to-face) requests money, particularly by a wire transfer service such as Western Union or even direct bank transfers, which could be going to an account set up with a stolen identity.
  • Know that scammers can be patient – often schemes have been running for 6–12 months before any cash is requested and in most cases victims report that the amounts requested are small in the beginning.

You can find more information about Project Sunbird on the WA ScamNet website: www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. There is also a new fact sheet called Help for victims of fraud.

If you believe you, or someone you know, could be a scam/fraud victim, you can talk to WA ScamNet about it by calling 1300 30 40 54 or emailing wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au.

The WA Police website has dedicated Project Sunbird and scams/fraud sections: www.police.wa.gov.au.

Media Contact:
Alina Cavanagh
9282 0679 or 0423 846 397
alina.cavanagh@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
22 Mar 2013

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