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NZ Man in court over alleged $1.2m scammed from pensioners

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A 48-YEAR-OLD Kiwi has been extradited back from New Zealand to face 21 boiler room fraud charges that police claim stripped retirees of their superannuation and others to the tune of $1.2 million.

The man, who is due to appear in Maroochydore Magistrates Court this afternoon, was the alleged ringleader of the Gold Coast-based scam, police claim.

Victims were lured into the scam with cold calls or by visiting websites set up by the group, Detective Senior Sergeant Daren Edwards alleged.

They were drip fed a small amount of cash to get them to pour more in.

He said the “callous” alleged fraudster had blown most of the $1.2 million on a luxury Gold Coast lifestyle and police did not yet have any assets to strip from the man.

“It was to do with safe racing and betting,” Sen Sgt Edwards said.

“Some of the allegations are that some of the complainants received some of the funding back so they appeared they were getting returns however that was just a phoenix set up. Once an investor put money in they would drip feed some of the other investors money to give the false impression they were getting money,” he alleged.

Snr Sgt Edwards alleged one West Australian victim invested $300,000 into the scam while another Sunshine Coast man in his 70s put in more than $70,000.

A second man has been charged on the Gold Coast.

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Henry Sapiecha

Be aware of scammers claiming you have to pay a police infringement notice

An email has been received saying you have been issued an infringement notice.

DIS IS DA POH-LEESE-PAY UP OR GO TO JAIL SCAM

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The email would say you are required to pay $180.78 and if you did not act within 28 days you may be prosecuted in a Magistrates Court.

In this case one Kaylene Ridgely said she immediately recognised the email as illegitimate and contacted SPER.

“I wondered who the people were and how they had my email address,” she said.

“It worries me because I’m sure there a lot of older people who don’t recognise it’s a scam and give out their details.

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Henry Sapiecha

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Woman posed as police officers in elaborate two-year ‘catfish’ scam

LAUREN Adderley took on a number of different identities to make her catfishing victim believe exactly what she wanted him to believe.

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A JEALOUS woman who posed as fake police officers to control her ex-boyfriend and stop him from seeing other women has been jailed.

Lauren Adderley, 21, used “sophisticated catfish style behaviour” to convince her former partner Mitchell Lloyd, 22, he was part of a police investigation.

She even made the young man believe he was subject to police curfews, creating email accounts to pose as cops and threaten him with fines if he did not obey the orders.

Using fake names including Darren Clarke, Elaine Thomas and Robert Hay, the young woman jealously told him to end relationships he had started, and even that he was not allowed to speak to specific people — particularly other women.

In the elaborate scheme, she also pretended to be her own friends on Facebook to send messages to Lloyd, criticising him for going out with other girls.

In sentencing, Peter Rouch QC, said: “I do not know what was going through your mind in December 2014 but at that time you decided to deliberately adopt the persona of a police officer to contact Mitchell Lloyd.

“At that time, he did not want a relationship with you.

“For two years you controlled Mitchell Lloyd’s life, to the extent that you told him where he could go and who he could go out with.”

The threats even included fines of about $4900 if he did not obey.

The couple had met through mutual friends during a night out, with their brief sexual relationship ending after two months in 2014.

But in a victim impact statement, the young man said that he had felt pressurised and blackmailed for two years after the relationship.

At one point, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard the young woman had even threatened to kill herself with a pair of scissors, later telling him “No one can ever love you like I love you x.”

Recorder Rouch told her: “These are serious crimes, as he could not live his life properly during the two years that you committed these offences.

“You did that for your own benefit, whatever that may have been.”

It wasn’t until the young man told colleagues at work about the curfews — including one that told he was no longer able to go to a public house he had taken his mother and sister to — that he alerted police.

Genuine officers were immediately able to deduce that the emails were fake, and traced them back to Adderley.

Paul Smith, defending, added: “Perhaps the key point in mitigation other than the early plea is her age. She was 18 when the offences began back in 2014.

“She has no previous convictions and has taken full responsibility for what she did.”

Jason Corden-Bowen, District Crown Prosecutor and Domestic Abuse Lead with West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Lauren Adderley created a complicated fiction of multiple fake profiles interacting with each other to her own satisfaction and reason.

“She used this sophisticated catfish-style behaviour to completely manipulate the victim’s life, dictating when he could go out, where he could go and controlled his social interaction with other people for over two years.

“The impact her actions had on the victim’s life cannot be understated and I would like to pay tribute to him for helping bring Adderley to justice.”

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Henry Sapiecha

How to tackle cyber crime before people even know they’re a victim

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What if the police told you that you were being scammed – would you continue to send money?

An estimated A$75,000 is lost by Australians everyday to online fraud, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Given that this is based on reported crime, the real figure is likely to be much higher. It is well known that fraud, particularly online fraud, has a very low reporting rate. This also doesn’t even begin to encompass non-financial costs to victims. The real cost is likely to be much, much higher.

There are many challenges to policing this type of crime, and victims who send money to overseas jurisdictions make it even harder, as does the likelihood of offenders creating false identities or simply stealing legitimate ones.

But despite these challenges police have started to do something to prevent the impact and losses of online fraud.

By accessing financial intelligence, police are able to identify individuals who are sending money to known high-risk countries for fraud. They then notify these people with their suspicions that they may be involved in fraud. In many cases the people don’t even know they may be victims or involved in online fraud.

Project Sunbird

This proactive approach was originally pioneered by Queensland Police Service. Another example is Project Sunbird, a collaborative project between the West Australian Police (WAPOL) and the West Australian Department of Commerce (Commerce) which first started in 2012.

Project Sunbird focuses on people who are sending money to five known high-risk countries in West Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Sierra Leonne. This is not to say that these are the only countries involved in fraud, rather it recognises that a large amount of money is transferred to these “hot spot” countries.

There are five stages to Project Sunbird: identification; intervention;‘ interruption; intelligence; and investigation.

Identifying potential victims is conducted by WAPOL, who access financial intelligence of individuals who are sending money to these five specific countries. They screen this list to formulate a list of individuals they suspect are fraud victims.

This list is passed to Commerce, who send a letter to each person, notifying them that they may be victims of fraud. The letter encourages the individuals to stop sending money and invites them to contact Project Sunbird staff to discuss.

If they continue to send money, they will receive a second more targeted letter, which outlines further details of their likely involvement in fraud and provides a fact sheet for fraud victims.

The third stage is focused on the interruption of payments and funds transferred to West Africa and is primarily undertaken by Commerce.

The fourth stage is the gathering of intelligence from letter recipients from both agencies which feeds into the fifth stage, being the investigation, which is led by WAPOL and can focus on local offenders if relevant, or make the appropriate referrals to an overseas law enforcement agency.

Sunbird shows promising results

Initial results from Project Sunbird have been very positive. Between March 2013 and July 2014, 1,969 first letters were sent to individuals.

Financial intelligence indicates that approximately two thirds (66%) stopped sending money, with a further 14% reducing the amount of money transferred (transactions are examined three months prior and three months subsequent to the month the letter is received). Of those who continue to send money and receive a second letter, 44% stopped sending money and a further 33% reduced the amount being sent.

While these early results indicate the success of Project Sunbird, the displacement effect of this approach is unknown. Analyses are currently unable to determine if victims stop sending money altogether, or if they simply stop sending money to the five countries currently targeted, and continue to send money to other countries.

The types of fraud uncovered by Project Sunbird are many and varied. These include romance, investment, lottery and inheritance fraud to name a few. The reach of offenders and their ability to manipulate and exploit victims is endless.

Individual reactions to receiving this letter are generally positive. For some, it was literally a lifesaving letter, with two individuals contacting WAPOL to advise that they were on the verge of suicide prior to receiving the letter.

While many are unaware that they are being defrauded, others have suspicions and the letter may be an important step in helping them to recognise and confirm their fraud involvement. It also provides a non-threatening means of discussing this with police, which is vital given the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with this type of victimisation.

The intelligence advantage

The use of financial intelligence provides an important shift in the way police deal with online fraud, to a proactive, victim oriented approach, compared to the more traditional reactive, offender based methods.

Australia is fortunate to have infrastructure in place whereby the financial intelligence needed by police to identify potential fraud victims is available to them. Not all countries have this information available to them, which limits their ability to implement a similar approach.

This approach also recognises online fraud as a legitimate crime type, which can have devastating consequences for its victims. By intervening in such a proactive manner, it is attempting to reduce and limit the losses incurred by unsuspecting victims. It is much easier for police to interact with a victim early on who has only lost a small amount of money, compared to picking up the pieces further down the track when the victim may have lost everything.

The South Australian Police have now launched a similar project based on the Sunbird model. In addition, the ACCC launched the National Scam Disruption project in August 2014, taken from the Sunbird approach which targets potential victims in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

In December 2014, the ACCC reported that it had contacted 1,500 potential victims, of which 60% had stopped sending money (similar results to Project Sunbird).

At this stage however, no other jurisdiction in Australia or overseas has implemented the collaborative approach used in Project Sunbird, with either police or a consumer protection agency taking sole ownership in their jurisdiction. There is currently no national, coordinated approach in Australia.

Some still send money

Despite its initial success, this approach is not foolproof and there are individuals who continue to send money overseas despite police intervention.

For these people, their journey to the realisation of their true circumstances will take a little bit longer (if at all). There is also the possibility that some will continue to send money to countries outside the five currently targeted.

There is still much work to be done, including the obvious potential to expand this approach to all Australian jurisdictions and encompass a wider number of countries.

But Project Sunbird represents a small light in what can seem like a never ending tunnel on tackling cyber crime.

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Henry Sapiecha

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