Feelings of shame and despair at being conned out of $300,000 by a convincing Nigerian based email scam led Queensland interior decorator Jill Ambrose to attempt suicide twice.
She survived and is now on a crusade to tell her story so that other Australians are not taken in by the scammers.
Speaking at AusCERT 2013 on the Gold Coast, Ambrose said she was contacted via email in September 2005 by a so-called doctor who was supposed to be the Lagos Commissioner of Health.
“He asked if my company would be interested in assisting in renovating some hospitals in Lagos. I was sent pictures of the hospitals and contracts,” she said.
“Everything was very straight forward and I was due to fly to Lagos in 2006. All of a sudden I didn’t hear from anybody. About four weeks later I get another email saying that the work had been done and US$11 million would be coming through to me.”
The email said that Ambrose could only keep a million dollars and that the money was being sent to a company in London. She was then told to pick up the funds in Amsterdam.
After flying to Amsterdam, she was taken to a deserted factory by four men and shown a truck that was supposedly loaded with millions of US dollars. The men told Ambrose that the funds would be transferred into her account the next day.
However, on the next day Ambrose was told that the liquid used to wash the money with had congealed and she was told to pay $100,000 to buy new liquid.
“I was left in Amsterdam without any money, I had a bit of leeway on my credit card but that was an uncomfortable situation,” she said.
“At the very early stages they say that you’re not going to have to part with any money. You’re so convinced that you are not being conned that you just do anything.”
The last time the scammers contacted Ambrose was in 2008. By that time, she was nearly destitute as the scammers kept asking her to send funds before they would release the $US11 million.
The scam also led to her husband ending their marriage in 2011 as he did not want Ambrose to go public with the details.
Ambrose has set up a Victims of Crime support group and helps other people who have been conned. She is currently working with a victim who sent $1.3 million to a Nigerian scammer.
“Nearly every person who gets scammed tries to take their life,” she said.
“They [scammers] are creeps and nobody is safe. The only thing I am pleased about is that my experience has helped me support a lot of people.”
Hamish Barwick travelled to AusCERT 2013 on the Gold Coast as a guest of AusCERT
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 or visit beyondblue.org.au.