Police warning after sinister twist in online romance scam

POLICE are issuing an urgent warning to the public following an investigation which has uncovered a disturbing development in romance and online scams.

The Queensland Police Service's Financial and Cyber Crime Group charged a 32-year-old Durack man last night following an investigation sparked after a victim contacted police.

Operation Swift commenced following information received from a 34-year-old Brisbane woman who believed she had been dating an offender who had claimed to be a United States soldier.

It is alleged the victim befriended a man she believed to be a U.S solider on a social media platform in October 2018.

Over the course of the following months the victim was groomed into believing the stories provided by the criminal and formed an online romantic relationship.

The victim sent over $200,000 to the man she believed to be a solider via a series of transfers through a money transfer service.

"While this is becoming far too frequent, it is what came next that caused us concern," State Crime Command's Financial and Cyber Crime Group Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence said.

The concerning twist is that the offender (and clearly not the U.S soldier in the images) travelled to the victims home to obtain more money, this time over $105,000.

The victim became suspicious and after confiding in a close friend, she reported the matter to police.

Yesterday, detectives conducted a tactical operation which lead to the interception and arrest of the offender whilst he was attempting to induce the victim to hand over more money.

Detectives executed search warrants at a Durack address and located a number of items used in the commission of these crimes.

Investigations are continuing.

The 32-year-old man was charged with one count each of fraud and attempted fraud.

He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.

"The U.S Army Criminal Investigation Command receives hundreds of complaints a month from people who find themselves involved in an online relationship with someone purporting to be a U.S Soldier," he said.

"This is a common scam worldwide. Usually the offenders interaction with the victim is all online so this further step of travelling to the victim's home is certainly something we need the public to hear and be warned of today.

"I encourage anyone using social media platforms to develop friendships or relationships online to maintain control at all times. 

"I know emotions may make that harder but arm yourself with the knowledge that these scams are occurring to everyday members of the community like you.

"Take the time to evaluate the relationship, talk to friends and other loved ones about your new relationship online. We are thankful the victim in this instance took this step."

Members of the public can learn about scams at www.scamwatch.gov.au, mypolice.qld.gov.au or R U In Control. 

Scams can be reported to www.acorn.gov.au

If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444.

You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24 hours per day.


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