A WA woman has lost more than $10,000 in an online romance scam after a fraudster used stolen social media images to pose as a ship captain called ‘Thomas Steve’.
After initially connecting on Instagram, the pair continued their romance via conversations on Google Hangouts. The victim was also in apparent correspondence with Thomas’ teenage daughter, ‘Sonia Steve’.
The woman was lured into sending money via PayPal for Sonia’s birthday and school activities, followed by two bank tranfers to a fake delivery company – Westline – to receive a jewellery package that Thomas claimed to have sent.
WA ScamNet has confirmed that the scammer built a fake profile using images of a real Danish sea captain. His photos have also been fraudulently used elsewhere under other names.
See Consumer Protection’s media statement for comments from the victim and the real captain.
Westline’s website is also fake, using stolen staff images and false contact details.
Consumers are urged to stay vigilant online, particularly while engaging with people overseas.
Tips to help recognise a scammer:
- Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online;
- Be wary of anyone who asks you for money. This can happen within days, weeks or months of meeting someone online. Never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer;
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. You can do this via Google images by clicking on the camera icon on the desktop version of the site’s search bar. Alternatively you can use Tin Eye. A reverse image search can help you identify if the image has been taken from someone else, or belongs to a few people with different names;
- Be careful about the amount of personal information you share and avoid sharing compromising material, which scammers can use to blackmail you; and
- If you agree to meet someone in person, make sure you let your family and friends know where you will be going.
You can report scams or ask for further advice by contacting WA ScamNet.
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