Fraud warning for Esperance (Project Sunbird)
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It’s usually known for tourism and sea life but Esperance has been highlighted as a hotspot for fraud victims by WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Consumer Protection.
Since July 2012, more than 30 suspected victims in the Esperance area have sent about $720,000 overseas, with individual losses as high as $365,000 and $120,000.
Officers from the anti-fraud initiative Project Sunbird will head there to gain a better understanding of the problem and Detective Sergeant Trevor Leach from Major Fraud Squad hopes to prevent money being sent to fraudsters in places like West Africa.
“Sending Project Sunbird letters to Western Australians who are being defrauded proves successful for about 60% of recipients but there are others who need a face to face meeting to be convinced that they are communicating with organised criminals,” he said.
“While we rely heavily on the media to spread our warning messages about criminals who connect with victims via dating websites, social media or advertisements for investment opportunities, it is also important to speak directly to communities about the financial and personal security dangers.”
The Major Fraud Squad will present information and take questions at the Anglican Church Hall, on the corner of Andrew Street and Windich Street, Esperance on Thursday 21 August at 6pm.
Ivo da Silva, Consumer Protection’s Senior Regional Officer for Goldfields-Esperance says this is the second time Project Sunbird has come to the region.
“In July 2013, Detectives visited a number of relationship fraud victims in the Goldfields and we held a community education session in Kalgoorlie.
“We had two very brave men who spoke out at the time – 52-year-old Mark who had lost $20,000 and 50-year-old Neil who had lost $100,000. Both men’s stories involved ‘women’ they had met online who were due to move to WA to be with them; in reality they were being groomed by criminals, using stolen photos of women.
“They are not the only victims to present to the Consumer Protection office here. It’s clear that there are many people in this region who are vulnerable targets and I believe isolation plays a part in that.”
Anyone is welcome to attend the meeting on Thursday night. If you wish to speak to a Project Sunbird officer about a suspected relationship or investment fraud, call 1300 30 40 54. You can remain anonymous if you wish. Find out more about the anti-fraud initiative at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au/ProjectSunbird
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