GROUND breaking work by Western Australia’s consumer watchdog the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection has helped US authorities bring down a multi-million dollar international scam network.
The alleged mastermind of the Global Shipping Services scam and co-conspirator of the El Gordo Scam – which have targeted WA victims for years – has been indicted by a US Grand Jury.
Robin Hansson (43) of Long Island, New York, has been put out of business by American law enforcement officers who were able to put their case together against her thanks, in part, to Consumer Protection investigations in Perth.
Ms Hansson’s alleged activities came to local attention after thousands of consumers received letters notifying them of goods worth $3,000 awaiting collection.
The letters went to WA and international consumers advising them that a $20 release fee was required.
Using a mail handling agency in Victoria Park, that was oblivious to the fact it was involved in a scam, the letters deluded each victim into thinking the offer was genuine.
As part of stamping out the scam the Consumer Protection team pioneered the use of alert stickers on mail that was returned to potential victims advising them that a scam had been detected.
Consumer Protection and other related investigations commenced in October 2001 and uncovered scams involving millions of letters in a worldwide network with more than $100 million passing through linked bank accounts in Australia alone.
In addition to Global Shipping and El Gordo, there appeared to be about a dozen other scams of various types linked to Ms Hansson and her associates.
The department, through its WA ScamNet service was able to drive activity linked with Ms Hansson offshore and, as a result, local reports of scams associated with her operations have fallen.
Since 2001 Consumer Protection has cooperated with the US Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service, which has helped in bringing indictment against Ms Hansson.
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