BUNDABERG police say they are being swamped as an increasing number of residents fall victim to fraud carried out by international crime syndicates targeting the lonely and elderly.
Renae Wilkinson from the Bundaberg Criminal Investigations Branch said she alone was dealing with about seven cases of fraud from across the region, some regarding property or money muling.
She said thousands of dollars had been transferred and lost by locals oblivious to the tactics of these criminal gangs.
"Unfortunately they are targeting the older generation who aren't very computer savvy, don't know how to verify an email address or immediately see that a website is unusual," she said.
"Most people under 50 know how not to get sucked into these scams, but the older generation seem to be ripe for the slaughter. They come from a generation where a handshake is a handshake.
"The most concerning thing is that we have all heard about the romance scams, but a new type of scam is coming out on Gumtree and buy/swap and sell sites where overseas criminal syndicates put up a cat, a horse, or an animal for sale and then engage."
After numerous emails, phone calls and even Skype sessions with these scammers, people agree to sign a contract, she said. This is then followed by a call for money for transport expenses, vaccinations, "pet express" and insurance. It's at this time Ms Wilkinson said they began to ask questions and then out of fear of being sued for reneging on the contract, lost thousands of dollars.
Ms Wilkinson said the property and money muling scams were quite elaborate.
When police knock on the door of someone who is suspected to have fallen victim to a scam, Ms Wilkinson said most were embarrassed while others found it hard to believe because they were emotionally involved.
She said it was frustrating as police had their hands tied and were not able to assist or locate/arrest offenders as they were outside their jurisdiction.
"It is heartbreaking to see these people work their entire lives only to get scammed and without any police assistance," she said.
Fraud can carry a five-year jail term while aggravated circumstances can be up to 14 years.
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