'I lost it all': Love scammers fleece grandmother of $300K
A DEVASTATED grandmother lost everything she owns, including her house and dog, to online scammers who promised her love but instead cleaned out her bank account.
Not long ago, North Ipswich resident Susan Caruana was facing bankruptcy and homelessness, after handing over more than $300,000 over several years to three men she met online.
Susan, 60, has spoken out about how she was swindled in the hopes of sparing others the same fate.
She wants to become a public speaker on what can be a difficult and embarrassing issue to discuss.
Four years ago Susan began chatting to a man with an English accent who said his name was David Fischer.
Mr Fischer was apparently an engineer working on oil rigs. He messaged her on Skype and sent photos of himself.
"When he first started talking to me I was sceptical," Susan said. "But I was lonely, in pain from a back injury, and isolated from my family.
"It felt good to be able to go on a date from the comfort of my home. It got to the point where I would rush home to check the computer to see if I had a message.
"I had fallen in love with the man in the pictures."
About six months after Susan began talking to Mr Fischer, he asked her for $6000 to help his daughter, who needed a laptop.
That was the beginning of a long-term financial trauma in which Susan was forced to sell her home and faced the real prospect of living in a shelter.
At one point Susan gave Mr Fischer access to her online banking - three days later the account had been cleaned out to the tune of $67,000.
Mr Fischer, and later a man purporting to be a lawyer - along with a third man who said he was a soldier fighting in the Middle East - told Susan dramatic stories of trouble with medical issues, taxes, mysterious safe deposit boxes filled with diamonds and gold, and fees paid to pilots to escape war zones.
A wake up call came when Susan's bank - the Commonwealth Bank - called her in for a meeting saying they were concerned about the large volumes of money coming out of her account.
The bank managed to stop one payment of about $30,000.
Today Susan believes none of the stories told to her by the men were true.
Susan said she did not blindly hand over the money but admitted she was flattered by the attention and had a genuine desire to help people.
The scammers are still calling and messaging Susan, who is trying to recover $8,500 to pay a Telstra bill racked up by reverse collect international calls, which she now does not have the capacity to pay.