WA first: money returned to romance fraud victim

A Perth woman who lost a six figure sum in an online dating scam says she feels like she has won the lottery after becoming the first known Western Australian romance fraud victim to get money back.

51-year-old Jenny has so far received 40% of the total amount she sent to an overseas bank account in late 2013 during a fictitious relationship with ‘Gary’ who she met on a well-known dating website. The scammers convinced her that ‘Gary’ was in love with her and needed money for a business-related crisis.

“I was simply looking for companionship after my divorce and never thought there would be such cruel con artists looking to capitalise on loneliness.

“I’ve learned the hard way and paid a high price emotionally through feelings of devastation but getting such a large proportion of the money back at least means the financial impact is lessened and it’s a small win in the war on these scammers.”

The two significant refunds from an overseas bank come more than three months after Jenny tried to reverse transactions because she realised she was being defrauded. Jenny was at the time in talks with officers from Project Sunbird – a joint anti-fraud initiative between WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Consumer Protection.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw from WA Police Major Fraud Squad says work began behind the scenes between international authorities and financial institutions.

“As well as trying to ensure the overseas bank account was frozen, we worked with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who recently arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with Jenny’s case,” he said.

“It was shortly after that development that Jenny received her two separate and very substantial refunds of money back into her bank account.”

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe described it as a unique case.

“For years, many self-reporting romance and investment fraud victims have been contacting WA ScamNet and we have never known any to get their money back. Indeed of the 152 Project Sunbird victims who contacted WA ScamNet between March 2013 and February 2014, with a total combined loss of $9,357,979, not a single cent has been recovered.”

Details about Project Sunbird, including resources for victims can be found at:


Anyone who would like to discuss a suspected romance or investment fraud can call the Consumer Protection general advice line on 1300 30 40 54 and ask for Project Sunbird.

(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce).

Follow us on Twitter: @ConsumerWA or like our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/ConsumerProtectionWesternAustralia

Media Contact:  Alina Cavanagh
9282 0679 or 0423-846397

Consumer Protection
Media release
02 Apr 2014

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