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She wasn't on the other end - Dating Fraud

by James Travers-Murison - solicitor

Beware of an advert that says:

"DISCREET Affairs, married,single, introductions. Daytime meetings. Free call 014 93 1295 (Local)"

because it's a lie. Perhaps we should listen to our inner voice that says a bit of fun on the side is never a good thing. A bit like eating too much cake and it's all going to come back on top of you some sunny day (cake and/or partner).

Well desperate and dateless in Cairns I tried the number, a mature aged woman sounding frantically anxious told me she could match me up to my perfect partner using her hi-tech computer system. Before I could ask her about how she could get me a date she interrupted,

"Have you got the money, it's 150 dollars?"

I was meant to pay it into her trust account, give her a call again and an unlimited number of introductions would be made. I rang off, but the next day I was tempted again and I thought why not a casual fling.

So I went to ANZ and paid $150 into Diane M.Portier's account 014 679 5533 69174 got a receipt went home and gave her a call. Her telephone was suddenly switched off. Everyday for the next five days it was off.

As the mobile number wasn't a free call nor local as the add said, it all started to look a bit more suspicious. I rang the Police. Two burly Queensland Police Officers rolled up to my luxury apartment at the Sheridon suites. I tried to persuade them to do something. The fat rolly polly one thought the dating agent might just have gone away. The skinnier mousy looking one said he'd look into it.

That was the last I ever heard from the Cairns Police. I moved swiftly to Consumer Affairs which was located in a little block behind the modern Court House, just in front of where I lived. I lodged a complaint and the squinty nosed clerk behind the counter assured me they would look into it.

Waiting for the perfect
match in Cairns

A week later I got a letter from Consumer Affairs saying they had passed the matter down to Southport where Ms Portier resided. But her name was not Diane Portier, but Anne Marie Taylor of 17 View Road, Mount Tamborine. Her advert saying "local" to Cairns was sounding more dodgy by the minute.

For the sake of expediency I shall refer to her as Ms P. I only wondered what Ms P must look like, some blue-rinsed gentile nouveau reche hairdresser from a proper family who had fallen on hard times and in desperation to make ends meet had resorted to what she knew best "taking peoples curlers out". Unable to whoo the young gents anymore she found the perfect alternative, play Perfect Match with no computers, no partners, no comeback, but plenty of upfront fees. Then perhaps its more likely she is a sole practitioner solicitor who has overspent the trust accounts of her practice.

As my imagination wondered over the weeks a letter came back from Southport Consumer Affairs. They wrote the following, "On contacting the telephone number, a lady by the name of Allison answered and advised that Ms Taylor is currently in Hospital and has been for some two weeks, thus the telephone has been switched off. It is suggested you contact Allison on the same number to discuss your complaint, preferably before January as the business will be closed for that month".

I could only guess what the business was closed for and what disease Ms P had suddenly developed. Hopefully I tried the number, it was switched off. I left Cairns for Melbourne and several months later I came across the old advert and thought I may as well give the number a try. The phone had been disconnected. I was almost about to chuck the whole thing away when it dawned on me if I don't do something she's going to keep on doing this. Profiting off others lust and stupidity.

You may well say good luck to her, she is the perfect karmic reward for those sorts. But my answer is why give others the opportunity to entice people into doing wrong. Anyway it's my rationalisation and $150. So I sent letters to the Police and Consumer Affairs in Southport demanding they charge her with fraud.

A week later I got a phone call from Ms Milom of Southport Consumer Affairs saying there was nothing they could do. Still niggled I rang Telecom and gave the name and address Consumer Affairs had given me and asked if they had a telephone number, they had a silent listing for another Taylor at that address which of course they could not legally give to me.

I wrote to Consumer Affairs head office and received a letter from surprisingly their Southport Office saying she had left Mt Tamborine. They even opened her PO box in Southport, this gave no further address, so they said again there was nothing they could do.

I sent another letter to the Police and on 14 August received this reply from North Tamborine Police:

I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 16 July 1997 in relation to your concerns of the activities of one Anne - Marie TAYLOR.

I have attended the address given in the correspondence from the Consumer Affairs Department, Queensland and found that the address is a vacant block of land. I have also conducted a number of computer checks via the Police Computer and the Queensland Department of Transport with negative results as to obtaining the present current address of TAYLOR.

I have made a number of inquiries with local Real Estate Agents which have also met with negative results.

At this time I am unable to assist you further with your concerns in relation to this matter outlined in your letter and am of the opinion that TAYLOR has never resided on Tamborine Mountain.

The correspondence forwarded to this station has been filed for future reference should Ms Anne - Marie TAYLOR ever be located.

Still on the trail, and as telecom had told me there was a silent number for her address I wrote one last letter to consumer affairs, and here it is.

Dear Mr Philips,


I refer to a letter sent by Ms S. Milsom dated 20 December 1996 and 30 July 1997 in which Consumer Affairs stated there was no further action they could take on this matter. I also refer to my letters of June and July 1997.

I paid $150 for a dating service in Cairns which appears to be a total fraud.

There is a silent number according to Telecom for 17 View Road Mt Tamborine. If you could assist me in obtaining that number then perhaps I can endeavour to negotiate a settlement with Ms Taylor.

Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Is this Ms P in hiding in Cairns?

To this date they have not replied and for all I know the very naughty and devious Ms P has ceased to exist protected by Telstra's silent number system. That's the confidence system for you. And I can hear an astrologer out there saying that I was married to Ms P. in another life.

What should you be looking for if you want to approach a dating or introduction agency?

The questions you should ask:

1. Is the agency listed under the Office of Fair Trading's voluntary code of conduct?

You can check this (and if you are paying a large sum you should) by ringing the Office of Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs in your state - see Government in the Yellow Pages.

Even if not listed, all incorporated agencies are bound by S.52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 Cwth (TPA). This prohibits conduct likely to mislead or deceive persons. Exclusion clauses in contracts will not allow agencies to do this; Collins Marrickville Pty Ltd v Henjo Investments Pty Ltd(1987) APTR 40-782.

Exaggerated claims by an agency are grounds for going to the Commission under S.52; Union Carbide v Duracell 1987 ATPR 46-020.

2. Is there a written contract and what does the contract provide in terms of service, levels of requirements and price?

Don't be afraid to ask "how much" it will cost, this could save you a lot of time if the agency is outside your budget. Do not pay anything (as I did) until you have had at least an interview in person and signed a written contract. READ THE CONTRACT BEFORE SIGNING IT!

3. Whether there are any additional fees apart from 'the up front amount' and if there are, what additional service is provided and what obligation is there to make these payments?

4. What are the agencies methods of introduction? Some may provide a mailing list or a voice mail telephone recording system only.

Interviewing in person each client at the agency offices is the safest and most reliable method to achieve the best results. If you are serious this is really a minimum requirement and you should be able then to make an adequate assessment about whether the agency suits you. Never part with any money before the interview has been completed and you feel secure that it is the right place for you.

5. How long has the agency been in operation? The longer the better.

6. How many people has the agency got listed? What is the ratio of men to women in your age bracket?

7. What sort of person comes to your agency?

Some agencies only cater for professional or business people. Whether you or the person you are looking for is divorced, widowed, separated, or unmarried and unattached should be considered and asked.

8. What sort of database is used and the method the database uses to match clients? It should be a sophisticated computer program ideally- ask if it has a 'cgi bin'.

9. What sort of follow up is provided?

Ask about the review process after a meeting. If there is a special telephone number to fix problems. How soon the agency can find a replacement if you are dissatisfied.

10. What sort of dispute resolution process is offered? Whether and to what extent will refunds be made if you are dissatisfied?

A good agency should offer a process whereby disputes can be resolved with you within the organisation itself.

NOTE: S.53 TPA prohibits over-charging!*

State clearly your special criteria or preferences in a partner and ask whether these can be met

You may not have the courage to ask all these questions, but if you do you should find that the most reputable agencies will be only to happy to answer them with confidence. You should never feel as if you are being pushed or forced into something that you do not want.

Once you have reached a level of trust in which you feel confident the agency is reputable then state clearly your special criteria or preferences in a partner and ask whether these can be met (write them down on a piece of paper before you telephone)

Do not feel inhibited in expressing yourself, your fantasies and your innermost desires. Otherwise how else will the agency know what you want and how your needs can be satisfied.

During your interview these should be clearly stated in writing on the agreement you sign.

*For more information on the TPA contact your state's Law Institute; my thanks to Leo Cussen Institute, Geoffrey Taperell and Jennifer Duxbury.

But whatever you do, do not forget to love everyone! (platonically first)

Next edition: Internet Dating - Just Chatting or Entering Cybersex ?


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