Project Sunbird, joint initiative between the Consumer Protection and the WA Police Major Fraud Squad. Running since March 2013 Project Sunbird’s aim is to disrupt the transfer of money out of from Western Australia to scammers in Africa.
The scams, known by authorities as 'advance fee frauds', have operated worldwide for decades and take a wide variety of forms. Many of the victims identified in Project Sunbird are caught up by a relationship scam. The scammers will establish a romantic relationship and then leverage this relationship to include investment, beneficiary and other types of scams. All these scams essentially involve fraudsters convincing victims to send money to get a benefit, which can be financial or, in many cases, relate to personal relationships.
Since 2013 Project Sunbird has sent out a total 4,708 letters, of which 67 per cent were first contacts with potential victims. The letters encourage the potential victims to stop sending money and to contact Consumer Protection for further advice and assistance.
Success is determined on the ability of the project to prevent further payments being sent and that comes with the realisation by the victim that they are being conned. In many cases, a lot of time is needed to convince victims that they have been defrauded.
Compliance activities are also undertaken when the actions of a victim present a financial risk to other members of the community. Consumer Protection has entered into an "enforceable undertaking" in April 2016 with a known scam victim, Mr Kleinig in which he agreed not to solicit or accept funds from anyone else to "invest" in the fraudulent scheme.
Previous action taken was taken in June 2015 by Consumer Protection in warning Western Australians not to deal with Gerardus (Gerry) Hermanus Jorissen who has sent at least $200,000 of other people’s money to overseas criminals under the guise of an investment scheme. In June 2013 Mr Jorissen and his wife Anne entered into a Court enforceable undertaking with Consumer Protection that prevents them from taking money from third parties to send to the overseas-based criminals. Mr Jorissen went on to breach that undertaking, resulting in Supreme Court action by Consumer Protection in August 2014. Consent orders were handed down preventing Mr Jorissen from soliciting or accepting funds from third parties to send overseas.
The positive response from the letters, where victims have stopped sending more money, was 72 per cent in 2015, compared to 64 per cent in 2014, an encouraging trend which shows the success of the project.
In disrupting the transfer of funds out of Australia, the Project Sunbird has achieved significant outcomes for individuals and the wider WA community, proving the success of the project in combating consumer fraud. While romance and relationship fraud still topped the list of scam types reported in Western Australia with $4.9 million lost last year, this was a 55 per cent reduction from the 2014 figure of $10.9 million.
|Drug Mule - A Current Affair, 8 September 2015|
Real life stories:
- Peter Kleinig
- Drug mule - A Current Affair 8 September 2015
- Winston and Gerry
- Pam and Romano
- Janet and Richard /Clive
- Neil and Mavis
- Mark and Georgina
- Jette Jacobs - also see 60 Minutes Love Scam
- Jenny and 'Gary' - also on Love Bait - Insight SBS
- Bryan - money washing
- Tracey and Ted Hamilton
- John and Benierpha
- Adam and Evelyn
- Wendy and John
- Paul and Sarah
- Jane's story
WARNING about flying to Africa to personally meet someone you connected with online.
- Victims of fraud fact sheet
- Operation/Project Sunbird
- Relationship Fraud
- Tips to avoid relationship fraud
- Flying to Africa
- Tools to expose scammers
See latest media statements released by Consumer Protection:
- 5 April 2016 Investment fraud prevention by Consumer Protection (Enforceable undertaking with Peter Melvin Kleinig)
23 June 2015 Public warning about Gerardus (Gerry) Jorissen
15 January 2015 Love bites, love bleeds $11m from West Aussies (Ministerial release)
2 April 2014 WA first money returned to romance fraud victim
14 February 2014 Nine million dollar annual loss to romance fraud
17 December 2013 International cooperation to help fight internet fraud
16 October 2013 Two million dollar online fraud loss WA's largest (Money Wash)
16 August 2013 Two million dollars in scam losses reported in one week
25 July 2013 Fraud intervention and prevention in Kalgoorlie
22 June 2013 WA romance fraud victim avoids dangerous trip