Gatton police detectives to investigate involvement of 55-year-old man in half-million-dollar private school fraud

A 55-YEAR-OLD Queensland man is being investigated for his involvement in an email bank account scam that netted $480,000 from a Warrnambool school.

Warrnambool police Detective Senior Constable Craig Wastell confirmed that the almost half-million-dollar payment from Emmanuel College last month went to an ANZ Bank account.

That account was opened in mid-March and belonged to a man from the Gatton district in south-east Queensland. That information, obtained through a Warrnambool court warrant, was forwarded to Gatton detectives earlier this week for further investigation, as the suspected crime happened there.

A woman from nearby Ipswich has been charged in relation to a similar email bank account scam involving the Midfield Group.

But Midfield accounts staff stopped payment and scammers only netted a fraction of their potential collect.

The innocent third party in that scam was a stock supplier, who noticed a regular payment had not been received.

​​Last year Wannon Water also made a complaint to Warrnambool police relating to a $120,000 scam attempt.

That scam involved a large construction company, which was the innocent third party. The complaint was later withdrawn by Wannon Water and the police file is now closed.

Wannon Water general manager of people and business service Steve Waterhouse confirmed on Thursday it reported an incident to police last year that related to email scammers pretending to be a legitimate supplier advising of changes to their bank account details.

 “The attempted misappropriation was unsuccessful and the incident was also reported to our bank,” he said. “Like many businesses, Wannon Water has noticed an increase in attempts to scam money using methods including emails, text messages, letters and external attempts to access systems.

 “We have multiple systems and controls in place to prevent this from occurring and our employees remain vigilant to these types of threats.”

Midfield declined to comment.

Emmanuel College made a payment of $480,000 on May 11 after receiving an email changing bank account details purporting to be from an innocent third party company, another Warrnambool construction business. The following Friday the college reported a fraud to Warrnambool police.

Detectives revealed that overseas scammers recruited money mules in Australia, particularly through grooming people via lonely heart internet sites.

Scammers then use their accounts as a depository before moving cash offshore.

None of the scammed money is expected to be recovered.

It’s thought that clicking on unsolicited emails allows an intrusion by scammers who can then read emails. 

They can then work out who is a service/goods provider and who is the customer and send an email attempting to redirect future payments.

Those emails usually take the form of changing bank accounts details purporting to be from the innocent service/goods providers.

Such scams came to more prominent public attention after a Ballarat hospital was defrauded of a reported $2.7 million in July 2016.

It was reported that the Health Department was able to recoup all of the losses through insurance.