A STANTHORPE woman has been caught in the middle of a catfishing scam, after police discovered she was harbouring $30,000 worth of goods purchased with stolen credit cards.
Police searched the woman's home yesterday after receiving a complaint last week from a Melbourne-based company complaining that a stolen credit card connected to her address had purchased goods from their online store.
Almost two months ago a person acting under the alias Robin Lawrence befriended the middle-aged woman on Facebook and began asking her to accept parcels on his behalf and forward them on to Cambodia.
The woman agrees, believing she is "just doing a favour for a friend".
The agreement stood that Robin Lawrence, whose profile suggested he was a divorcee living in Perth, would transfer her money to cover the postage but she was not paid for receiving and passing on the packages.
After receiving the complaint last week from the Melbourne-based company Stanthorpe police Detective Sergeant Ryan Harmer uncovered that packages were being delivered to the Stanthorpe address almost daily.
On Tuesday one of those couriers contacted the police informing them that they were about to deliver a package to the address in question.
The police took the delivery as a window of opportunity and after the courier dropped off the package they entered and searched the premises.
The value of the brand-named goods found and seized at the Stanthorpe address was about $30,000 and included handbags, sporting gear, shoes, laptops, home ware, electronic tablets, and items of clothing.
Detective Sergeant Ryan harmer said he believed the woman, who was even sent an iPhone by the person masquerading as her friend, was innocent.
"I think she was more naive than involved," he said.
"She was just trusting and did it out of goodwill for someone she thought was her friend."
Investigations have revealed that more than $21,000 worth of laptops from one computer company alone had been bought by Robin Lawrence, and shipped to the Stanthorpe address over the past two months.
"(The computer company) said they have seen the Stanthorpe address connected to more than 40 to 50 attempts at buying equipment with different credit card numbers," Det Sgt Harmer said.
"So obviously this person is some kind of skimmer who has stolen these credit card details and is using them to purchase goods online, but only the ones that haven't been reported as stolen are going through."
Detective Sgt Harmer said it was safe to assume the credit card numbers being used were Australian.
"You would think it would be cheaper to buy this stuff elsewhere around the world but if you make a purchase with an Australian credit card in China or Cambodia the credit card company would notice and alert you to an out-of-the-ordinary purchase. But if you're buying from an Australian site, with Australian credit card and sending the goods to an Australian address the credit card company is less likely to pick up on it," he said.
The Stanthorpe woman is not alone in the deception however, as Detective Sgt Harmer said he had just today received the details of another person in Mackay receiving and forwarding on packages for 'Robin Lawrence'.
"The (Stanthorpe) woman's conversations with Robin (Lawrence) who would log on from an internet cafe, presumably in Cambodia, always started very casually, but they were always brought back to the packages," Detective Sgt Harmer said.
The Stanthorpe woman brought more packages into the Stanthorpe Police Station today with more expected to arrive in the coming days
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