Paid dating service scam leaves trio $500,000 out of pocket

Three men have lost almost $500,000 after responding to an alleged newspaper romance advertisement scam, with a Gold Coast trio now facing a string of fraud charges.

Police believe more people across Australia have been defrauded through the scam.

Two Benowa women, aged 52 and 29, and a 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man, have been charged with offences including fraud, receiving tainted property, possessing tainted property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically for their alleged love scam.

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The trio allegedly defrauded three men between June 2022 and February this year.

Two men in their 70s engaged in a paid dating service after responding to a personal advertisement, making payments to a woman in her 50s who claimed to be a widow.

The woman allegedly claimed she needed large payments to get out of a work contract.

Two men in their 70s, and a man in his 50s, engaged a paid dating service after responding to a personal advertisement. Credit: Queensland Police

One of the men lost about $42,000 before raising concerns with a friend about a potential scam.

His matter was referred to police in February.

A second man from the Cassowary Coast in far north Queensland lost a total of $343,500 before reporting the scam to police in March.

Two addresses on the Gold Coast, at Benowa and Mermaid Beach, were searched by police in July.

Police recovered $79,200 in cash stuffed in pillows.

Evidence from these properties uncovered a third victim, a man in his 50s from Western Australia, allegedly defrauded out of more than $111,000.

“There are likely to be other victims and complainants out there, not just locally, but across the nation,” Inspector Jason Chetham told reporters on Thursday.

“We would ask anyone who has information about these offences, whether they’re a witness or complainant themselves, to come forward.

“We’d love to listen to their story. We won’t be judging them at all.”

Three Gold Coast people are facing a string of fraud charges in relation to an alleged newspaper ad scam. Credit: Queensland Police

The two Benowa women have each been charged with five counts of fraud.

The 52-year-old faces additional charges of receiving tainted property, possessing tainted property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically.

Both are expected to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on October 3.

The 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man has been charged with four counts of fraud and is expected to appear in the same court on September 18.

Embarrassment could be a barrier for people to come forward, but police treated these incidents in a non-judgemental way, Chetham said.

“We can also provide support services to them if they have been victims of crime,” he said.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pay money to get an introduction to people, that’s a red flag straight away.”

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