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West Australians are sending up to $1 million a month to African ‘relationship fraudsters’, according to the head of the State’s Major Fraud Squad.

Police figures reveal relationship fraud has cost WA about $4.5 million in the past six months.

The fraudsters, from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, target their victims and trick them into sending money by fabricating relationships.

The Major Fraud Squad has launched ‘Project Sunbird’ to support potential victims and help overseas authorities prosecute the offenders.

Officer-in-charge, Det. Sen-Sgt Dom Blackshaw, said in a number of cases, detectives had discovered links to African organised crime.

Together with the Department of Commerce, he said potential victims were being identified and urged to stop sending money.

“Project Sunbird members identify potential victims through financial intelligence and/or reports from the community,” he said.

“A letter is then posted to the home of the person, addressed to the householder, advising that they are likely to have been defrauded and that they should break contact.

“If this is ignored and money is continuing to be sent then a second letter is posted, addressed directly to the victim, advising them to contact Project Sunbird staff to report the matter and advising them of the professional counselling services available.

“If there is no response to the second letter and money is still being sent, then a member of the Major Fraud Squad will personally visit the victim to discuss the matter.

“In almost all cases, after a personal visit by police, people acknowledge they are victims and stop sending money.”