A Gold Coast trio preying on the loneliness of men have been arrested in a romance scam that saw them fleece several victims of thousands of dollars over an eight month period.
Detectives from Cairns Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) are appealing to the public for assistance, after charging three people in relation to an alleged romance scam.
It will be alleged between June 2022 and February 2023, three men were allegedly defrauded of almost half a million dollars.
Two men in their 70s allegedly responded to a personal advertisement and were subsequently engaged in what they thought was a paid dating service.
It is alleged they made payments and were put in contact with a woman who claimed to be a widow in her 50s. From there, it is alleged the woman claimed she required large payments to get out of a work contract.
One of the men, from the Toowoomba region, lost approximately $42,000.
After he consulted a friend who advised him of concerns it may be a scam, he reported the matter to ReportCyber and it was referred to Queensland Police Service in February 2023.
The second man, based in the Cassowary Coast region, lost a total of $343,500. After contact was ceased, he reported the matter to Cairns Police Station in March 2023.
Warrants for two homes on the Gold Coast
Following extensive investigations, on July 25, detectives executed search warrants at two homes at Benowa on the Gold Coast, where two women were taken into custody. A third search warrant was also executed at a Mermaid Beach property.
It will be alleged at one of the Benowa properties, $79,200 in cash was located hidden within pillows in a bedroom.
During these search warrants it will be further alleged evidence was located that led detectives to locate a third alleged victim, a man in his 50s from Western Australia.
It will be alleged the man was engaged in the same scam and was defrauded of more than $111,000.
The total the three men were allegedly defrauded of totals $496,578.
A 52-year-old Benowa woman has been charged with five counts of fraud and one count each of receiving tainted property, possessing tainting property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically.
A 29-year-old Benowa woman, has been charged with five counts of fraud.
Both are next expected to have their matters heard before Southport Magistrates Court on October 3.
On the morning of August 4, a 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man was taken into custody after he presented to Broadbeach Police Station.
He has been charged with four counts of fraud and is next expected to have his matter heard before Southport Magistrates Court on September 18.
Investigations into the alleged fraudulent dating service remain ongoing, and detectives urge anyone with information to come forward.
It’s not your fault
If you are a victim of a scam, it is not your fault and you are not alone. Anyone can be vulnerable to scams.
Detective Sergeant Matthew Hogan of the Far North High Risk Investigations Team said that there are potentially dozens of people across Australia, impacted by this allegedly fraudulent dating service.
‘Anyone at any stage in life can be vulnerable to scams and while it is confronting and upsetting, we ask victims to come forward, seek support and report what has happened to ReportCyber or to police,’ Detective Sergeant Hogan said.
‘This will help ensure it can be investigated, alleged offenders put before the court and that others in the community can be reminded of the warning signs.
‘To defraud any person is horrible, but to specifically seek out mature people who may be vulnerable, it’s cruel and QPS will investigate all matters, until alleged offenders are before the court and support is provided to those victims
‘We urge anyone who has information which could assist in investigating fraudulent activity, to come forward.’ Detective Sergeant Hogan said.
There are a number of resources available to help victims of fraud. Support services, resources and links are available on IDCare.
If you are not okay and need help, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, immediately notify your financial institution and then report the matter to ReportCyber.