Scammers who prey on vulnerable people such as Wagin woman Jette Jacobs are heartless professionals, warns WA’s Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe.
The body of Mrs Jacobs, 67, was found in a Johannesburg guest house on February 9, more than two months after she travelled to meet 28-year-old Jesse Orowo Omokoh.
Ms Jacobs left her home in Wagin, southeast of Perth, in late November on a trip she believed would seal her online romance of four years with the man she knew as Jesse Orowo Omokoh.
“This is a tragedy where someone who is simply looking for love has lost their life,” Mr Newcombe said.
The WA fraud squad, which is running Operation Sunbird to detect online scammers, revealed last month that WA victims had been conned out of nearly $4.5 million in the last six months.
Tragically, Operation Sunbird officers had sent a letter to Ms Jacobs, warning her she was the victim of a fraud - but it arrived after she had left for Africa.
Det. Sen-Sgt Dom Blackshaw of WA’s Major Fraud Squad said there was evidence “Jesse” had arrived in Johannesburg two days before reporting her death and giving a statement to local police.
“The circumstances of Ms Jacobs’ death are still being investigated but there is evidence that it is suspicious,” Det Snr Sgt Blackshaw said.
“These relationship frauds are being perpetrated by ruthless overseas criminals who are members of organised crime syndicates.
“To travel to Africa to visit someone you have met on the internet is extremely dangerous and could, as in the case of Ms Jacobs, cost your life.”
Ms Jacobs’ son, who did not want to be identified, said the deadly scam was a warning to others.
“The second time Mum went over for a couple of months and did not return. The consequences of this internet scam has taken her life,” he said.
“We all tried to talk her out of it, even some of her best friends. No one could convince her that it was not real ... she kept believing it was.
“We weren’t strong enough to stop her. Hopefully we can make others understand there is nothing for them in Africa.
“Don’t go, they are running a scam to lure people to go to Africa - and there is a possibility it could be a one-way ticket.”