International relationship scams
Beware of sending money overseas to a pen-friend or prospective marriage partner to visit Australia to further a relationship begun over the Internet
Several Australian citizens have been defrauded by bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes purportedly operating mainly from Russia. These large-scale, well-organised scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual relationship develops, the Australian citizen is asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. Once the money has been received, the relationship is usually terminated and any chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely.
The scammers often make use of what appear to be Australian Government email addresses to send fraudulent emails to the Australian party, informing them that the friend or prospective marriage partner has been granted a visa to visit Australia to further the relationship. The message may include fake details of a non-existent visa.
The Australian Government has notified the Government of Russia about its concern over this matter BUT there is little the Australian Government can do to assist citizens who fall victim to the individuals and agencies behind these schemes.
TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Treat with caution any request to forward money. We understand that individuals have been asked to provide funding for airline tickets, visas, hospitalisation and excessive customs duty.
- Verify the authenticity of an e-mail message purportedly from the Australian Embassy in Moscow advising you of visa details relating to your friend or prospective spouse. Unless you have been formally authorised to receive such information, the message is likely to be a fake. You can verify its authenticity by sending a new message to DIMA-MOSCOW@dfat.gov.au explaining the situation and asking for verification that the details did indeed come from that office. Do not simply "forward" or "reply" to the message sent to you since it may go back to the scammers rather than to the DIMA office.
- Seek authoritative information about Australia's visa requirements, procedures and costs through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)' website or (for the cost of a local call ) through the 24-hour national telephone service inquiry line on 131881. Information can also be found on the Australian Embassy in Russia website.
- If you wish to proceed in assisting someone's travel to Australia, consider prepaying for airline tickets directly with the carrier.
- You can never be sure of the true identity, including age, gender or nationality, of an internet correspondent
- Once money has been advanced, the Australian Government has no legal power to assist in its retrieval
- The recovery of funds is a private legal matter and the onus for recovery is on the individual
- The Australian Government can assist only by providing the names of in-country legal representatives
- As with other types of scams, travel to the country in question in order to "sort things out" can be dangerous. It is not advisable.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF A FINANCIAL SCAM
- The Australian Federal Polices advises you to report the matter to your State/ Territory Police Services and request that your report be forwarded to INTERPOL.