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Scam alert: Gina Rinehart fires up after Aussie retiree's $110k life savings snatched

The Gold Coast man came across the scam on Facebook and thought it could help him boost his retirement income.

A Queensland retiree has lost “nearly everything” after falling for an investment scam that used the image of Gina Rinehart on Facebook. Now, the mining magnate’s team says Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be held accountable.

Former auto-electrician Gary got sucked into the scam after he saw an online trading scheme advertised on Facebook.

“I started seeing these ads on Facebook and they had photos of people like Gina Rinehart, Twiggy Forrest and Clive Palmer,” Gary told Yahoo Finance.

Scam victim Gary and Gina Rinehart.
Scam victim Gary lost nearly all his retirement savings and superannuation after falling for a fake Gina Rinehart investment. (Source: Supplied/AAP)

Have you fallen victim to a scam? Contact tamika.seeto@yahooinc.com

The ads claimed investors could make huge amounts of money with a small initial investment. While the 70-year-old was initially unsure if the ads were legitimate, he said he kept seeing them on the platform for weeks.

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“They were on there for probably six to eight weeks. I thought they must be genuine because they would have been taken down by now,” Gary said.

Gary had been retired for five years and was relying on his superannuation, so was keen to see if he could boost his retirement income.

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After following the ad prompts, Gary ended up signing up for the platform Rapidnex, which he believed was endorsed by Rinehart. He also received a fake email claiming to be from Hancock Prospecting confirming his account had been activated.

Gary said he had searched the company and didn’t come across any “red flags”. It even appeared to have an Australian Business Number (ABN).

Rapidnex has since been flagged by ASIC as a suspected imposter entity using the details of another Australian company with a similar name.

Gary said he was able to log into the cryptocurrency account and would see his money supposedly going up and down and where it was invested. In total, he invested $109,055 over five transactions.

Gary cryptocurrency investment and email
Gary was given a dashboard where he could supposedly see his investments going up, plus an email claiming to be associated with Hancock Prospecting. (Source: Supplied)

It wasn’t until a few months later when Gary tried to take some money out, that he realised something wasn’t right and was told there was nothing in his account.

“It was all my savings bar a couple of thousand I kept in my savings account. Nearly all of my super - luckily, I did keep some of my super but I did take a lot out,” Gary said.

Gary was able to receive a small amount of money from his bank but is now living on the pension.

“It’s changed my lifestyle quite considerably, that's for sure. No more holidays for me,” he said.

Zuckerberg ‘should be held accountable’, Rinehart says

Rinehart has written directly to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a bid to stop the scams using her image on Facebook, providing examples of the scams and asking the tech giant to “do more”.

"We’ve written to Meta and Mark Zuckerberg several times last year and pointed out that we have almost no such scam problems with Elon Musk's X,” a Hancock spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

The spokesperson alleged they were seeing one scam on X involving Rinehart, compared to hundreds of scams on Facebook in the same period of time.

“In our view, Mark Zuckerberg should be held accountable given his lack of action, and pay all those who have lost money on scams he has publicised,” the spokesperson said.

“We have several staff trying to cope with getting these scams taken down, and also rely on people writing in, in case our staff miss any.”

Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Forrest
Facebook's parent company Meta is fighting charges brought by billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest. (Source: AAP)

Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has brought criminal charges against Meta, accusing the tech giant of being “criminally reckless” in allowing scam ads featuring his image to appear on its site. Meta has pleaded not guilty to three counts of recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The Fortescue Metals executive chairman is also suing Meta in California, where the company's headquarters are located.

Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launched legal proceedings against Meta in 2022 over its publication of scam ads.

Meta said it uses a variety of techniques, including machine learning and specially trained reviewers, to cut down on scams.

"In the final quarter of 2023, we removed 691 million fake accounts globally. We also invest in tools on our services that allow people to report scams and to warn people if they are contacted by someone they don’t know," a Meta spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

"We partner with local organisations to educate consumers to spot and avoid scams and bring enforcement action against scammers."

Warning for other Aussies

Despite losing nearly all his retirement savings and superannuation, Gary said he still felt “pretty lucky” to have at least some money. “There are a lot of people worse off than me,” he said.

He is now urging other Aussies not to fall for the same scam and to exercise caution when investing online.

“I wouldn’t believe anything that’s on Facebook and I wouldn’t be giving any money to any company or business online,” Gary told Yahoo Finance.

“If you want to invest, do it with a broker, face to face in your city. I don’t even answer the phone anymore. If I see a number I don’t recognise, I just don’t answer it.”

Aussies reported losing more than $8 million to online investment trading platform scams last year, with 400 reports made to Scamwatch.

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