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Woman tricked into laundering money 'ignored' when she reported it -

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HAYDEN COOPER, PRESENTER: Online fraudsters are targeting Australians at a record rate, yet the centrepiece of the Government's fight-back appears to be failing.

Tonight we bring you the story of a woman who was lured into a money laundering operation after applying for what turned out to be a fake job. She reported what happened to a national agency set up to fight cyber crime, but her complaint has gone nowhere.

Many other victims say their experience is the same and they've been left worrying about whether they'll be targeted by the criminals again.

This report from Pat McGrath.

STACEY ROBERTSON: It scares me. It absolutely scares me that, you know, this person could be anyone. I don't know who they are. They know who I am.

PAT MCGRATH, REPORTER: Stacey Robertson lives with the fear that an international fraudster knows where to find her. For much of this year she's felt trapped in her own home.

STACEY ROBERTSON: I couldn't even go to the shop in broad daylight. I freaked out. I got to the front door and started crying and was a complete mess.

PAT MCGRATH: Stacey's problems began in May, when she applied for a job as a travel agent online.

All the contract looked above board. And then I sent that back to them and then they said they would be in contact for my first "task", as they called them. So yeah, within 24 hours I had a job.

(Excerpt from advertisement)

ANNOUNCER (advertisement):

(Excerpt ends)

PAT MCGRATH: The job was advertised on the Federal Government's employment website, JobActive.

(To Stacey Robertson) So it all looked really legit?

STACEY ROBERTSON: Yeah. I went online and looked up their ABN. They've been a company for a very long time. So, I mean, everything looked legit.

PAT MCGRATH: The company's name was First Choice Travel and the position description listed its address at this building in Newcastle. But it was all a front. The scammers were falsely using another Newcastle company's business name and Stacey's job ended up having nothing to do with travel.

STACEY ROBERTSON: So my first task was to have money deposited into my bank account and then I was to go and transfer that through MoneyGram, which is - I went to the servo to do it.

PAT MCGRATH: The scammers told Stacey to use a 7-Eleven MoneyGram terminal to transfer the $3,000 to an account in China: one of the duties in her contract. They claimed it was going to her boss.

STACEY ROBERTSON: He was a person who was high up in the business that I had to send the money to. So you know, obviously I didn't think twice about it.

PAT MCGRATH: After the money went through, the scammers wanted her to send more.

STACEY ROBERTSON: Later that night I had gotten home and they'd sent me the email, asking if I can do $10,000, which is a lot of money to get put into your bank account with no work being done to earn it.

So, yeah, later that night I freaked out. I spoke to my mother about it and alarm bells rang and that's when I started emailing and looking into things.

PAT MCGRATH: What had you discovered that you had done?

STACEY ROBERTSON: Money laundering, basically. I had no idea what it was, but I do know now what it is.

PAT MCGRATH: Stacey still wanted to alert the authorities, so they could stop other job seekers being targeted.

STACEY ROBERTSON: My initial reaction was to go straight to the police and tell the police, but that wouldn't have worked in my favour. That would have put me in liability to be arrested and charged.

So I did what I thought was the right thing: went online, sent an email to a government agency to help me out.

(Excerpt from ACORN advertisement)

ANNOUNCER: Now there's a place to report online crime.

PAT MCGRATH: She went to ACORN, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

In 2014, the then Abbott government set up ACORN to be a one-stop shop for reporting online crime.

Now, when victims report online fraud to their local police station, they're sent to ACORN. But six months after lodging her report, Stacey has heard nothing.

STACEY ROBERTSON: You'd think they'd jump straight on it and be like, "Oh," you know, "we need to deal with this." But no.

PAT MCGRATH: 7.30 has spoken to other victims of cyber crime who have reported to ACORN and heard nothing back, so we lodged a Freedom of Information request with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which runs ACORN, asking exactly how many reports they had passed on to law enforcement agencies.

In their response, they said they received about 40,000 complaints last year. But they wouldn't tell us how many they'd passed on to the police because, they said, that could jeopardise operations.

So we asked the Prime Minister's special advisor for cyber security if he knew how many cases ACORN has passed on.

(To Alastair MacGibbon) Do you know what that number would be?

ALASTAIR MACGIBBON, PRIME MINISTER'S CYBER SECURITY ADVISER: Look, I don't. What I do know is: the information that is collected by ACORN is available to the relevant police services, because that's where it should go.

PAT MCGRATH: Do you think maybe ACORN doesn't want to tell us that number because it's close to zero?

ALASTAIR MACGIBBON: No, I don't know. Because I know that the police have access to that information. So again, I don't know the specifics of what matters are actively investigated, versus looked at in the aggregate by the ACIC, versus individual state and territory police services. I genuinely don't know.

But I'm not going to say that it's a perfect system.

JAN MARSHALL, ACORN AMBASSADOR: People are trying to do the right thing. They're reporting. And they're not getting anything back.

PAT MCGRATH: Jan Marshall has become an advocate for victims of cyber crime since Nigerian scammers tricked her out of $275,000, four years ago.

She now runs a victim support network and a blog - and two years ago she was recruited to spruik ACORN.

JAN MARSHALL: They gave me the title of being 'ambassador for ACORN', but it's really just being on their list of people willing to take calls from the press.

PAT MCGRATH: But Jan Marshall has come to believe that ACORN isn't doing its job.

JAN MARSHALL: Look, I'm starting to get a little bit frustrated because, even though people might be reporting to ACORN, I've got no idea what happens after that. And so I'm feeling less sure when I refer people to ACORN in saying they will, you know, investigate this for them. I don't know what ACORN is doing.

Certainly the feedback I get from people is that they put in a report and it's like it goes into a black hole.

PAT MCGRATH: And the research confirms Marshall's concerns.

Cassandra Cross has just interviewed 80 Australian victims of online fraud who have lost huge sums of money: some of them $500,000.

CASSANDRA CROSS, CYBER CRIME RESEARCHER, QUT: Overwhelmingly, those that we spoke to in the research who went to police received a fairly negative response, in that police directly or indirectly blamed them for what happened, really trivialised, minimised what has occurred, or in some cases just humiliated them in the police station that they were in.

ALASTAIR MACGIBBON: I hope to see ACORN improve dramatically. I hope to see Australian police services be more technically skilled. I hope to see them have a greater capacity to investigate these matters.

But they're hopes. They're aspirations.

What I can tell you is: in the cyber security strategy, we're increasing funding for key Commonwealth agencies. I know that ACORN will continue to evolve.

PAT MCGRATH: Stacey Robertson is trying to move on with her life. She's finally given a statement to the police, after pleading with them directly to investigate what happened to her.

(To Stacey Robertson) And are you still worried at all that, basically, you've committed a crime?

STACEY ROBERTSON: I worry every day that I'm essentially going to go to jail.

There's been no reassurance from the police that I'm not going to be implicated but... yeah, time will tell eventually.

Pat McGrath reporting.