Woman’s Day (Australia)
THE SCAMMERS WON’T BEAT US!
Like so many Aussies, Margie and Jen were conned out of thousands of dollars
In October 2021, nurse’s aide Margie Hurley was gearing up to retire. She’d paid off her mortgage and saved a nest egg, then she saw the Facebook ad. “It said I could make $200 a day,” Margie, 64, tells Woman’s Day.
“I wanted to add to my savings, and help my three kids and my sister out, so I clicked on it.” That was the beginning of the end and the link drew Margie into a complex scam. “I had a broker who called at 4pm every day. It was during COVID [lockdowns] and I was lonely and trusted him. He became a friend,” Margie, from Victoria, says.
Over four months she invested $250,000 with him, using up all her savings and took out a new $100,000 mortgage. “The biggest regret I have is borrowing from friends and family. I was told I had to invest more to get my money out and I was desperate,” she says.
‘I had nothing left and I felt like such a loser. I still do’
In February 2022, when Margie finally accepted it was all a scam, she fell apart. “I had nothing left and I felt like such a loser. I still do. My kids were so proud of me and now I’ve lost that. I have to work full-time again now and I’m back to living hand-to-mouth.”
Margie’s experience is something private investigator and former police detective Ken Gamble sees every day. “I’ve been investigating scams for the last 10 years but since COVID it’s exploded,” Ken, who heads up IFW, a company that investigates fraud and cybercrimes, tells Woman’s Day. “I got a call today from someone who’s lost $1 million and that’s not unusual.”
From January to September 2022, Aussies lost almost half a billion dollars to scammers. The ones that extract the most pose as investment opportunities and target victims via social media.
“The scammers have so much money behind them they’re making Hollywood-style videos with professional actors to set up the scam and their websites are so sophisticated and well-built you can’t believe it’s not real,” says Ken.
Victims start investing small amounts but when clever
software shows their money is growing, they’re convinced to part with everything they own. By the time they realise it’s a scam, it’s too late and there’s nothing even the police can do.
“The Australian Federal Police will not investigate investment fraud against individuals or originating in other countries,” Ken explains.
This is where he steps in. With teams all over the world, he works to identify where the scam is coming from and then moves in to raid the call centre, arrest the culprits and seize their assets.
“We have received tens of millions of dollars back this way,” says Ken. “Often the criminals will try to negotiate and pay their victims back if they drop the charges and sometimes this is the quickest way to get their money back.”
Ken is now working with Margie in the hope of retrieving some of her money but even if he does, she says the experience has changed her forever.
“I constantly doubt myself,” she says. “I don’t know how the people working these scams can live with themselves.”