Vegan Doctor Garth Davis has branded a scam which left a Melbourne woman $600,000 AU out of pocket as 'insane'.
Pictures of the doctor were used by a group of hoaxers to create a false profile of a fictional man called Dr. Frank Harrison, an orthopedic surgeon from the U.S. They then used the profile to trick people out of large amounts of cash.
The 61-year-old victim has asked to remain anonymous - and has been referred to simply as 'Ms. Chen' in the case reporting.
The Internet scammers are a group from Africa, according to News.com.au.
Using a picture of American weight loss expert Dr. Garth Davis, the group tricked Ms. Chen into making no fewer than 33 payments - losing her entire life savings.
The plant-based doctor was aware that people were using his pictures, warning his followers about a fake Instagram account: "This account in the picture is not mine.
"I also am not on any dating sites. And I do not need you to send me money. Lots of people stealing pics and making fake accounts," he wrote.
Having started in November last year, the scam began with 'Dr. Harrison' calling Ms. Chen to help him with a penalty fee of $3,000, saying that he was in an airport and was carrying too much cash.
Following that payment, the scammers managed to string the Australian woman along for six months.
Scammers' excuses included: security fees, stamp duty, demurrage, legal costs, and refund fees.
Ms. Chan ended up paying the scammers her entire life savings, as well as some of her husband's superannuation.
"I don't know how to explain," she said. "I don't know the real world, what's happening. I've never experienced someone cheat me. Many times I want to end my life. I feel hopeless," she said.
Her husband, originally from Malaysia, said: "The scammers used Facebook information to pick their targets," the 62-year-old said.
"They have a team that play different roles to manipulate the emotions of the victim. It's just a matter of time [before] they harvest more Australian victims," he added.
Malaysian police managed to arrest one of the mules in the northwestern state of Kedah.
However, Australian police has said that they are powerless to help.
"We have no power, even the police have no power to stop them," said Ms. Chen. "The Australian police don't care, [they say], 'It's too hard, too hard.'"
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that $3 billion were lost to personal fraud.