Australia; Romance scams involving stolen goods



Romance scam involving stolen goods leads to warning after Geraldton woman falls victim
By Sarah Taillier
Posted Wed at 10:24am

A new kind of romance scam is emerging in Western Australia where people are being used as mules to traffic stolen goods out of the country, authorities have warned.

It comes after a woman from Geraldton, 400 kilometres north of Perth, connected with a man earlier this year through an online dating site.

The woman, who wishes to be known as Tracey, said he sent her gifts on Valentine's Day and said "all the right things".

After being in contact for about a month, Tracey was asked to receive packages on behalf of the man, who claimed to be living in Sydney and working in Canberra.

She was asked to send the packages overseas to Bangkok.

"I opened every parcel when I received it, just to make sure there was nothing else in it," Tracey said.

The packages, which mostly contained expensive clothing and fashion goods, increased until Tracey was receiving an average of one delivery a day.

It seems to be a concerning turn in relation to how scams are being operated.

"I requested him to stop sending the parcels and he never took any notice of what I said," she said.

Tracey, 49, realised something was wrong when a shipping document showed some of the items were purchased by a credit card under her name.

"I've never owned a credit card in my life ... that's when I thought 'nup, this is not right'," she said.

Consumer Protection was contacted and has launched an investigation. About 50 items are being held by WA Police.

Mules used to avoid suspicion: Consumer Protection
Consumer Protection senior regional officer Danni Bloomfield said it appeared the items were purchased using stolen credit cards.

"(With) the general romance scams, you'll quite often find that they're asking for money," she said.

"So it seems to be a concerning turn in relation to how scams are being operated.

"(Scammers are) moving away from taking the money from the victims, and encouraging them to become a mule in the middle of their ring to send the stolen items overseas.

"There's also reports out of Karratha where a lady was receiving brand new laptops ... and there's also a report out of Albany where a lady was receiving similar packages to what Tracey's received in Geraldton."

Consumer Protection said overseas scammers used "mules" because Australian online retailers were less likely to and more cautious of shipping goods to overseas addresses.

Often, by the time a retailer realised they had been the victim of a credit card, the goods were already out of the country.

Consumer Protection has appealed for anyone who has had a similar experience to come forward.

Tracey said she feel betrayed and had suffered trust issues following the scam.

"(It's) scary for anyone to go through what we're going through now, so just be aware," she said.