AN ONLINE scammer used a Bendigo woman's bank details and personal information to fleece unsuspecting victims of thousands of dollars, a court has heard.
The 49-year-old woman handed over the details to the scammer, thinking he would send her money after he claimed to be in love with her.
The scammer then purported to sell items online, telling the victims to transfer the payment to the woman's account before sending the money onto themselves.
Following the offending, the woman was charged with three counts of negligently dealing with the proceeds of crime. She fronted the Bendigo Magistrates' Court on Monday where she pleaded guilty.
The court heard the 49-year-old started speaking to the scammer in 2019 after connecting with the person on an online dating service.
The pair never met in person, instead speaking through the service's chat site for about 12 months.
During their conversations, the man said he would send her money so the 49-year-old handed over her bank account details, date of birth, and the CVV number found on the back of a credit card.
On July 31, 2019, the first unsuspecting victim saw an advertisement for a horse float.
After agreeing to a price, the scammer handed over the 49-year-old woman's bank account details for payment.
The victim transferred $1900 to the bank account but never received the horse float.
A similar situation happened another two times in August and November of that year. A further $9385 was transferred into the woman's bank account from the two unsuspecting victims.
The court heard the 49-year-old transferred the money into the scammer's account after he told her he needed money to get out of Poland.
The woman was interviewed at the Bendigo Police Station on December 18 last year.
She told officers she was not aware of the scammer's offending until the police contacted her.
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The woman admitted to never seeing the man in person although she did hand over her bank account details and personal information.
The court heard records showed the woman had also sent money to places like Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates between 2012 and 2016.
Defence lawyer Eleanor Miller told the court the woman had not profited from the offending and instead was a victim herself.
Ms Miller said the woman had previously been the victim of another romance scam.
The defence lawyer said the woman had significant mental health issues and was on the Disability Support Pension as a result.
Ms Miller submitted that although this was not the woman's first time before the court, a good behaviour bond was still within range for the offending.
Magistrate Russell Kelly said alarm bells should have been ringing when the man asked the woman for her bank details, especially given her history.
"You've been used as a mule to funnel money from poor, unsuspecting victims," Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly said he would give the woman a two-year good behaviour bond without conviction, but he implored the woman to be more careful.
"This is your last chance," he said. "You need to concentrate on looking after yourself. Unless they're in front of you, don't give them your details and bank account.
"There are plenty of good people in Bendigo. Look around for relationships, but you need to be able to look them in the eye."
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