Australian Senior Citizens Duped Into Being Drug Mules

By John Lavitt 07/03/14

Foreign scam artists are increasingly targeting elderly travelers with too-good-to-be-true online offers.

elderly couple computer.jpg
We get free bags, too! Shutterstock

In a new twist on drug smuggling, Australian senior citizens traveling overseas are being duped into being unwitting drug mules by international criminal organizations.

In 2013, an unsuspecting elderly couple from Perth discovered they were smuggling $7 million worth of methamphetamine into the country. After winning a trip to Canada in an online competition, free bags had been awarded to the couple that actually contained the drugs.

"It was actually an internet scam they became involved in," said Leanne Close, the Australian Federal Police National Aviation Manager. "They were searching the internet and entered what they thought was a legitimate holiday process of winning tickets in a draw for a holiday, and the prize was a free overseas trip and luggage.”

An Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation revealed how older Australians were being targeted by a bogus Canadian-based travel company. A poor understanding of the Internet combined with the financial difficulties of retirement have made the elderly easy targets.

"The investigation has revealed a complex and highly organized scam…The organizers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a facade of legitimacy,” said Australian police Cmdr. David Bachi. “We will continue working with local and international law enforcement partners, targeting all elements of this drug syndicate."

Although not prosecuted when caught, the seniors are subject to incredible risk when falling for such a scheme. Justice Minister Michael Keenan believes the only answer might be for older Australians to exercise extra caution when making travel plans. In addition, if they suddenly win an online travel prize in an unexpected fashion, they should investigate it fully before accepting the offer.

"[W]e want to make sure that people use common sense if they do get an offer of free travel to make sure they do their due diligence to make sure it's a bona fide offer and not a way for criminals to use people in this way," Keenan said.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.