Captain con: romance scam leaves WA woman in its wake
A fraudster has used stolen social media images to pose as a ship captain in a romance scam that duped a Wheatbelt woman out of more than $10,000.
Consumer Protection is warning that false identities featuring the same man’s photos continue to appear on dating and social media platforms.
Claiming to be called ‘Captain Thomas Steve’, the scammer initially connected with the woman on Instagram before continuing their conversations on Google Hangouts.
The victim also believed she was corresponding separately with Thomas’ teenage daughter, ‘Sonia Steve’.
She was lured into sending money for Sonia’s birthday and school activities, followed by bank transfers totalling more than $9,000 to receive a jewellery package that Thomas claimed to have sent via a company called Westline Delivery.
The victim, who wishes to be known as Fay, said the scam had taken a toll financially and emotionally.
“I felt very depressed and naïve. I lost my trust in people,” she said.
“He was quite convincing and it seemed like the real thing. It was a huge lesson for me and I hope other women will be more cautious, especially if anyone asks for money.”
The scammer’s profile featured stolen images of a real Danish ship captain, who said he was frustrated by the ongoing misuse of his photos to create false identities.
“Apparently mine is one of the most copied profiles on the internet. I receive a lot of messages from people who think I’m the person they’ve been talking to,” he said.
The Westline Delivery website (westlinedelivery.com) is also fake, using false contact details and staff images taken from other businesses.
Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard urged consumers to stay vigilant online, particularly when engaging with people overseas.
“In Western Australian alone, more than $2.6 million has been lost in dating and romance scams already this year,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Alongside the financial losses are the significant emotional impacts for victims of the deception, as well as people who are misrepresented online, such as the real Danish captain in this case.”
Fay encouraged others to avoid becoming isolated or secretive about their online relationships.
“Chat to the person by video, such as on Skype, to make sure they look like their profile picture,” she said.
“Don’t hand over any money at all, no matter how emotional or intimidated you feel. In the end, you can’t buy love.”
Connection – or just con? Romance scam tips:
- Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online.
- Do an internet search of the person’s name – including words like ‘romance scam’.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture using Google Images or Tin Eye to see where else it’s been used.
- Don’t send money. Alarm bells should ring if requests for money are made – this can happen within days, weeks or months of meeting someone online.
- Be wary if someone suggests moving the conversation to another forum, such as email.
- Don’t accept Facebook friend requests from strangers.
- Be careful about the personal information or compromising material you share.
- Talk to trusted family or friends for a second opinion. Avoid becoming isolated.
- If you agree to meet someone in person, let your family and friends know where you’ll be.
Media Contact: Sarah Roberts: 6552 9453 / 0466 409 828 / email@example.com