A single mother from Blacktown has been fleeced of more than $110,000 in a shocking romance scam.
The woman, 61, had been single for several years when she joined an online dating site for over 50s.
She started talking with a person who claimed to be an Australian man working in Malaysia. He soon moved the conversation to Skype and email before shutting down his dating profile.
The scammer provided his victim with details including photographs, construction certificates and websites that seemed to corroborate his story.
Police believe the photos were taken from the online profile of an innocent man not connected to the scam.
During a two-month ‘romance’, the scammer claimed the Malaysian government was withholding his money, and requested the victim help him get to Australia to meet her.
The woman, who had recently retired and gained access to her superannuation, sent money to a Malaysian bank account and also gave the scammer access to her Westpac bank account.
She then flew to Brisbane to meet the man, who never arrived and did not respond to emails, phone calls or messages on Skype.
Police are now investigating the case, and have warned people these scams are becoming more common.
Detectives believe the cases often go unreported due to shame and embarrassment.
Scammers reportedly often pose as members of the US military stationed in the Middle East, and trawl dating sites looking for vulnerable men and women.
The scams may also be related to international money laundering for criminal organisations.
Protect yourself against dating and romance scams
Never send money or give your personal details to someone you have only met online.
Watch out if an online admirer asks to communicate outside the dating website or social media platform after only a few ‘contacts’ or conversations—it could be a scammer.
Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye.
Be cautious when sharing intimate pictures or videos online. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using pictures or video of you that you don’t want anyone else to see.