Described as Australia’s worst case of catfishing, last Sunday our very own Tam McLaughlin was featured in 60 Minutes’ exclusive report into fraudster Lydia Abdelmalek. The episode covered Abdelmalek’s decade-long catfishing crimes, with Tam discussing the difficulties in identifying individuals involved in fraud cases and the importance of tracing misappropriated funds.
For over a decade, Abdelmalek catfished several people pretending to be actor Lincoln Lewis. Using social media, Abdelmalek assumed the identity of the Home and Away celebrity leading to stalking and harassment of the victims. Abdelmalek utilised tactics ranging from faking Skype calls using footage of the celebrity found on the internet, to even appropriating a copy of Lewis’ driver’s license as proof of identity. Once the catfishing was unravelled, the stalking swiftly followed. What surprised the victims even further, was that regardless of numerous calls and interactions with the perpetrator whom they all thought to be a male, the decade of catfishing was being committed by a woman. This coincides with a rising trend of online romance scams committed with complex fraud techniques to further convince the victim of the authenticity of the relationship. The sophistication of software used by Abdelmalek to mimic a man on the other end of the phone calls, video chats and photos, further demonstrates the increasing complexity of fraud cases in identifying the individual responsible.
Tam detailed the difficulties that arise in identifying the perpetrator in an online fraud case, particularly in police investigations that may take years to uncover. Fortunately, the victims did not transfer funds as a result of the fraud, however, the complexities in identifying Abdelmalek and other perpetrators in similar cases reinforce a key message. The investigations and prosecutions of individuals engaged in online fraud scams are frustratingly slow. Furthermore, it is important to remember that it is not the job of law enforcement to recover funds defrauded. In fraud cases that result in the misappropriation of money; time and resources should be focused on tracing the money into the hands of recipients as opposed to trying to locate the person responsible. Seeking advice to investigate where the money has ended up, will often be more beneficial rather than prolonged investigations into the individual/s committing the offence. Additionally, the alternative civil route is a more effective approach, due to the potential for victims to recover their financial losses and receive compensation for damages.
Duxton Hill specialises in all aspects of assisting victims of online fraud scams. Duxton Hill offers unrivalled expertise and experience in resolving complex fraud cases. We focus on locating the funds lost and we are the only multidisciplinary firm of fraud investigators and fraud lawyers in Australia. To watch the full episode, click here.