Local News

Meet the man helping Aussies how to spot a scam!

Like so many Aussies, Margie and Jen were conned out of thousands of dollars.
Loading the player...

In October 2021, nurse’s aide Margie Hurley was gearing up to retire. She’d paid off her mortgage and saved a nest egg, then she saw the Facebook ad.

“It said I could make $200 a day,” Margie, 64, tells Woman’s Day.

“I wanted to add to my savings, and help my three kids and my sister out, so I clicked on it.”

That was the beginning of the end and the link drew Margie into a complex scam.

“I had a broker who called at 4pm every day. It was during COVID [lockdowns] and I was lonely and trusted him. He became a friend,” Margie, from NSW, says.

Over four months she invested $250,000 with him, using up all her savings and took out a new $100,000 mortgage.

“The biggest regret I have is borrowing from friends and family. I was told I had to invest more to get my money out and I was desperate,” she says.

Margie’s savings were drained by a scam.

(Image: Supplied)

In February 2022, when Margie finally accepted it was all a scam, she fell apart.

“I had nothing left and I felt like such a loser. I still do. My kids were so proud of me and now I’ve lost that. I have to work full-time again now and I’m back to living hand-to-mouth.”

Margie’s experience is something private investigator Ken Gamble sees every day.

“I’ve been investigating scams for the last 10 years but since COVID it’s exploded,” Ken, who heads up IFW, a company that investigates fraud and cybercrimes, tells Woman’s Day.

“I got a call today from someone who’s lost $1 million and that’s not unusual.”

From January to September 2022, Aussies lost almost half a billion dollars to scammers.

The ones that extract the most pose as investment opportunities and target victims via social media.

“The scammers have so much money behind them they’re making Hollywood-style videos with professional actors to set up the scam and their websites are so sophisticated and well-built you can’t believe it’s not real,” says Ken.

Ken helps track down scammers.

(Image: Supplied)

Victims start investing small amounts but when clever software shows their money is growing, they’re convinced to part with everything they own.

By the time they realise it’s a scam, it’s too late and there’s nothing even the police can do.

“The Australian Federal Police will not investigate investment fraud against individuals or originating in other countries,” Ken explains.

This is where he steps in.

With teams all over the world, he works to identify where the scam is coming from and then moves in to raid the call centre, arrest the culprits and seize their assets.

“We have received tens of millions of dollars back this way,” says Ken. “Often the criminals will try to negotiate and pay their victims back if they drop the charges and sometimes this is the quickest way to get their money back.”

Ken is now working with Margie in the hope of retrieving some of her money but even if he does, she says the experience has changed her forever. Now she just wants to warn and help others in a similar position.

“I constantly doubt myself,” she says. “I don’t know how the people working these scams can live with themselves.”

Jen Irishu recently fell for the “Hey Mum” scam.

(Image: Supplied)

“Hi Mum,” the text read. “This is my number, you can save this one and delete that one.”

It was August 23, 2022, and Brisbane mother-of-two Jen Irishu assumed the message was from her 42-year old son. “When I asked what happened to his old phone he said he’d broken it and lost all his files. He was having a stressful day,” Jen, who is in her 60s, tells Woman’s Day.

When he mentioned he urgently needed help to pay two bills, Jen’s motherly instinct kicked in and she offered to help.

“It all sounded quite normal and my husband Chris and I sat at the computer and paid the first bill, $3250. I emailed the receipt to my son straight away.”

When her real son phoned back and asked what the receipt was all about, Jen instantly realised she’d been scammed.

“I felt so stupid. I’m usually pretty switched on.I texted the scammer back telling him what a scumbag he was,” says Jen.

The money had gone though, and despite it being a relatively small amount, Jen says she wanted to speak out about it.

“Someone has to be brave enough to,” she says. “People have contacted me saying they’ve lost up to $100,000 with this scam. It’s happening all the time and I want people to know about it so it stops.”

Related stories

The PI saving lonely hearts from online scams
Sex & Relationships

The PI saving lonely hearts from online scams

Julia Robson spends her life trawling internet dating sites but she’s not looking for love — she’s a savvy private investigator making sure her clients’ Prince (or Princess) Charming are who they say they are. It’s a field that didn’t exist a decade ago but Julia’s phone is ringing non-stop, with dozens of lonely hearts […]