In a world-first initiative aimed at reducing a crime now responsible for people losing millions of dollars each year, Queensland Police have launched the Advance Fee Fraud online reporting system to assist victims and streamline the process for police.
Police Minister Judy Spence said the Nigerian scams, which involved offenders contacting victims over the internet (generally from Ghana or Nigeria) and requesting the payment of fees in return for a promised large financial return, had become a major crime in Queensland.
Detective Superintendent Brian Hay of the Queensland Police Service’s Fraud and Corporate Crime Group said this crime could have devastating consequences.
“Victims are sending anything from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars overseas in these scams. Families are going bankrupt, losing their home – everything,” he said.
He said while every effort was being made to prevent this crime from occurring, people were still becoming victims.
The web-based system allows victims to report crimes of this nature directly online.
This “portal” then directs the matter directly to the country where the offender is suspected of residing, such as Nigeria and Ghana.
Receiving full support from the Nigerian High Commission (who are providing a link on their website), the system is available to all Australian residents.
“Quite often we find that victims become extremely embarrassed when they realise they have become a victim,” Detective Superintendent Hay said.
“We are hoping this system will alleviate some of the embarrassment to the victims by providing a non-confrontational method of reporting in a user-friendly environment,” he said.
“The system will also ensure consistent information is collected and referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency. A system like this is also valuable in gathering statistics which we use to ensure our enforcement and education strategies are appropriate.”
The Advance Fee Fraud online reporting system can be found on the police website
Further information including methods of prevention, types of scams and helpful strategies are also available from this site.
Queensland Police Service’s Fraud and Corporate Crime Group has been at the forefront of reducing and preventing this crime type, hosting a National Nigerian Fraud Symposium in 2007 and a National Advance Fee Fraud Symposium in 2008. Queensland Police are working closely with Nigerian and Ghanaian agencies on operations focused on apprehending offenders residing in Nigeria and Ghana. In 2007 Queensland Police launched a national project with Western Union to provide warnings against people sending money to overseas fraudsters.
The group is also regularly working to educate the community on preventative strategies aimed at reducing the number of victims who fall prey to these scams.
Police Minister Judy Spence said police estimated that they currently fielded about 23 enquiries a month regarding Advance Fee Fraud.
“Despite the widespread publicity of the fraudulent nature of these scams, research conducted by the Queensland Police Service has revealed Queenslanders are sending around $600,000 per month to countries like Nigeria and West Africa,” she said.
“These are victims falling hook, line and sinker to people promising them fast or easy money over the internet.”
Since 2005, police say the number of victims losing large sums of money to these scams has drastically increased.
In 2005, Queensland Police selected a random sample of 26 people who sent money overseas to Nigeria and questioned them as to why they were sending that money. It became clear that 25 of the 26 were victims of fraud. Those 25 victims alone had combined losses that exceeded $7 million.
In 2007 Queensland Police expanded the sample pool to 139 people. Police established that 135 people were victims of a scam. This time the total lost exceeded $18 million.
Source: The Redland Times