A few recent convictions demonstrate that some progress is being
made in the never-ending battle against online scams, particularly
those in which the scammers use social media to find their
Most of us think that fraudsters who con people out of money
through online scams are based overseas, but a string of recent
court cases shows that many are based in Australia.
The good news is that scammers are being tracked down and
brought to face justice.
Lonely people vulnerable to online scams found on
internet dating websites
A dating and romance scammer who fleeced $2 million from lonely
men she'd met through online dating services was sentenced to
three and half years behind bars.
The 42-year-old Sydney mother of four pleaded guilty to eleven
fraud related offences after tricking seven victims into lending
her money that she used for gambling, drugs and building a
Using a series of aliases, 15 phones and online dating services,
she tricked men over six years into sending money, allegedly for
sick relatives and funerals.
A 62-year-old Hobart woman was jailed for 18 months for conning
$127,000 from a NSW man she met through a dating site. She
persuaded him to send her money on 122 occasions, claiming she
needed money to pursue her ex-husband for child maintenance and
paying medical bills.
She spent it gambling and swindled another $200,000 from other
men she met through dating websites.
Scammer who claimed to have beaten cancer through
Other frauds are more public, such as that of blogger Belle
Gibson, who received a lot of publicity claiming she had beaten
brain cancer through so-called natural treatments.
Unfortunately, after hearing of her "miracle cure",
some cancer sufferers stopped taking medications and undergoing
necessary treatments. We still do not know the full impact of
Gibson's fraudulent claims, but at least the courts have
ordered her to stop.
Misleading and deceptive conduct finding against fake
If she doesn't pay up, she could face much larger fines and
The court in Melbourne found Gibson's company made $420,000
from sales of a book and smart phone app after Gibson falsely
claimed that she had cured her brain cancer through natural
remedies, despite never having the disease. The court found that
she had also lied about donating a large portion of her profits to
Gibson is yet to be penalised after the Federal Court found her
guilty of misleading and unconscionable conduct underAustralian Consumer Law.
Court prohibits further claims about "terminal
cancer" and "cure"
Justice Debra Mortimer ruled Gibson is prohibited from claiming
– in connection with her wellness advice and products –
that she was diagnosed with brain cancer and given four months to
live, but rejected conventional treatment and healed herself
through natural treatments.
Justice Mortimer said that Gibson may have been under "some
kind of delusion" about having brain cancer, but Gibson has
not attended court to answer those questions, and neither has a
lawyer representing her.
The judge found that Gibson "played on the genuine desire
of members of the Australian community to help those less
Penalties for Gibson's deceptive conduct are expected to be
handed down in June.
Stay informed to safeguard against scams
To find updated warnings and subscribe to email alerts on the
latest scams, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch website.
In Australia, suppliers are unable to specify a minimum price below which goods or services are unable to be resold.
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