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Man in Qld Australia scammed of $400,000 for worthless scrap paper

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A WEALTHY Queensland man has lost $400,000 buying blackened “US bank notes” that turned out to be worthless pieces of scrap paper.

The notorious “black money” sting has hit Queensland before, but never on the scale inflicted on one hapless investor in Brisbane.

In a separate scam, two pensioner brothers from Longreach have been fleeced of $350,000 after being conned into believing they’d won a $23 million lottery.

And a Brisbane woman was talked into buying $89,000 worth of iTunes cards after being convinced she was helping Telstra catch computer hackers.

Police say these are some of the latest victims of a barrage of scams hitting the state, with 90 Queenslanders a day reporting they have been conned.

In the “black money” sting, scammers convinced the victim they had genuine US bank notes that had been coated in black paint.

A liquid solution was meant to clean the notes, but after buying them at a reduced rate the victim was scrap paper rather than the millions of dollars in profit that had been promised.

The scheme is also known as the Nigerian “wash wash” scam due to it reportedly originating in the African country about 17 years ago.

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The Longreach brothers were in partial care when they were told they had won 15.5 million euros ($23.2 million).

They had been targeted by what is known as an “advance fee fraud”, in which victims hand over money on the promise they will receive a lottery win or inheritance.

Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence, head of the police Financial and Cyber Crimes Group, warned that vulnerable people were still falling for the scam despite it operating for years.

“They pushed $350,000 out in the belief they would be getting all these millions back,” Supt Lawrence said.

“It was their life savings for their care and everything like that. It’s just gone.”

The iTunes card scam involved a fake Telstra worker convincing the Brisbane woman her computer had been hacked.

The scammer then convinced the woman Telstra was transferring money to her account to help catch the hacker.

Over three days in July, she bought $89,000 worth of iTunes cards and handed them over, her money gone with little chance of a recovery.

The names of major brands such as energy retailers, phone companies and supermarkets are frequently used in the scams.

Bargain hunters, gamblers, online dating users and business owners are among those targeted, with some schemes tailored to match the time of the year.

“At tax time they do the Australian Taxation Office. Come Christmas it will be online sales or hotel accommodation,” Supt Lawrence said.

But it is believed only a fraction of those scammed report their losses to authorities.

In a recent investigation into a Gold Coast boiler room operation, police established there were about 1000 victims but only 200 came forward.

“A lot of people don’t report because they’re embarrassed – or it’s an amount they don’t think is worth reporting,” Supt Lawrence said.

Detective Senior Constable Andrew Browne, also from the financial crimes squad, said scam messages purporting to be from firms such as Telstra or Origin Energy were sent to 100,000 people or more at a time.

“They know they’re the biggest providers of power or phone bills so therefore they’ve got their biggest chance of success. They’re all trusted brands people use,” Constable Browne said.

In another scam busted by police this year, a Gold Coast man who paid for a brand-name BBQ was one of hundreds of people who ordered goods from a sham online trader that never delivered.

Two Latvian fake traders were advertising discounted Weber barbecues and other goods online but customers never received them. The pair was arrested in Brisbane and charged with multiple counts of fraud.

A new Queensland police campaign, R U in Control, is publicising scams as they occur.

Supt Lawrence said: “If people just take that second to have a bit of a think before falling for it, we could prevent much of this fraud together. You decide, not the scammers.”

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Henry Sapiecha