WA woman loses $300k in ‘Allan McCarty’ romance fraud
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Romance fraudsters often pretend to be engineers or military men but one of the latest scams foiled by Consumer Protection and WA Police Major Fraud Squad’s Project Sunbird involves a fake interior designer ‘Allan McCarty’ and a Perth woman has lost $300,000.
The victim is not prepared to speak to the media but her case sparked an investigation leading to the discovery of several other Australian victims.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe says the decision to reveal the details is to alert other people who may be communicating or sending money to this fictitious character.
“Facebook profiles and pages along with a business website have been used to create a belief that a man called Allan McCarty, an interior designer originally from Scotland but now residing in Australia, exists and is looking for love online,” he said.
“One Western Australian has sent $300,000 to overseas criminals after being convinced that she is in a relationship with ‘Allan McCarty’ who needs money for his business. Our officers have also located women in New South Wales, including one who sent $50,000, and another victim in Tasmania. All thought they were romantically involved with the same person, who doesn’t actually exist.”
The Acting Commissioner said the real man in the photographs had been identified but that several attempts to contact him had been fruitless.
“We know that the man in the photographs lives in California. He has low security and privacy settings on his Facebook profile, making it easy for scammers to steal his pictures. In real life this man appears to have been battling cancer and we suspect the fraudsters have picked him for that reason – they can potentially use as an excuse not to meet the victims in person and to seek financial assistance.
“Although some of the victims’ money went to the United States or Dubai, where ‘Allan McCarty’ was supposedly working, funds are understood to have been funnelled through money mule accounts to West Africa. The business websites in this fraud (allanmccarty.com and allanmccartydecor.com) were registered using a computer and email address in Nigeria. It is believed that the Nigerian Internet user or users previously posed as another fake identity called ‘Brian Scott’ using the ‘Allan McCarty’ photos.”
Tips to avoid romance fraud:
- If you begin the relationship online ensure you can meet in person. Scammers use email, phone and Skype and may even send greeting cards or flowers but will give excuses as to why they cannot see you face-to-face.
- Be suspicious of anyone who tries to get you off a dating website and onto email quickly or anyone who randomly tries to connect with you via email, Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype or Viber.
- Know that text used by the scammers is usually a script, so if you copy and paste a message into Google and find it exists elsewhere on the Internet it’s a scam.
- If photos are supplied, do a Google Image search at images.google.com to check whether those photos have been used in romance scams or are stolen from someone.
- Do not send money to a love interest you met online. Overseas payments via wire transfer (Western Union or Moneygram) are generally not possible to trace. Bank accounts, even those in Australia, may have been opened with forged identities or be owned by a fraud victim who is laundering money.
- Suspicious about an online connection? Call Project Sunbird on 1300 30 40 54 for a confidential chat.
Since 2011 Western Australians have sent more than $37million to overseas criminals pretending to offer romance or investment opportunities. Project Sunbird has sent more than 3,500 letters to people whose financial transactions indicate they are supplying money to fraudsters in West African countries. Find out more at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au/ProjectSunbird
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