Jody Bridges worked for years to raise money to prepare her family for life – but her big plans fell apart in a single text message.
A family in the central coast of New South Wales has been left shaken after crooks stole $500,000 from them and then sent them death threats.
Jody Bridges and her husband Corey worked hard all their lives as a math teacher and landscaper respectively, sometimes juggling five jobs at once, and believed it had finally paid off.
They sold a Sydney property they had been holding on to for a long time during the Covid-inspired property boom, walking away with $1million in profit.
It was their only chance to move forward and Ms Bridges heard from a friend that putting money into government bonds was a safe investment strategy.
She found a website offering ANZ-affiliated bonds called Capel Court with an Australian business number which she even verified with ASIC for authenticity.
For two months, she went back and forth with company representatives, asking questions, filling out forms, receiving bank statements and even creating a portal login for the highly sophisticated website.
Ms Bridges, 42, finally transferred her money in two installments of $500,000 last month. But during the second transfer, her bank warned her that it was a scam. By then, half a million dollars had already passed where it would have been converted into untraceable bitcoin.
“It could happen to anyone,” the distraught mother-of-three told news.com.au. “I’m pretty sure I’m almost bankrupt.”
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Ms Bridges is very ‘savvy’ with her money and has made a number of good financial decisions for her family – earning them the million dollar mark from a successful house sale.
Everything about the scam was very professional, including the fact that it first came across the fake Capel Court website on February 23.
It took two months to separate her from her funds because the scammers were in no rush to send the money, which would have immediately aroused her suspicions.
“No one forced me or pressured me,” she said.
Once, it took her four weeks to respond to an email and no one ever sent her a follow-up to find her.
“I checked everything, ASIC said it was a legit company,” she explained.
The problem is there really is a Capel Court bond company owned by ANZ – but that wasn’t it. The crooks had stolen the company’s credentials and were impersonating them.
She attempted to transfer her money in installments of $500,000 on April 7 and 9, but the money bounced back.
Then, on April 13 and 14, the scammers helped her send her money by wire transfer of $500,000 each, the first going through but the second being blocked by her bank, Teachers Mutual Bank.
Since then, she has been fighting to get her money back.
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“When I found out it was a scam it was heartbreaking,” Ms Bridges said.
“I would never forgive myself… the guilt I have to live with. I could never work enough to ever repay that.
“I don’t come from a lot, I think my job in life is to prepare my children, to be the best mother I can be and to prepare my children for life. My mother struggled.
“We just worked hard, put our heads down and thought it was time to prepare for our future.”
Ms Bridges was given the mobile and office numbers of two so-called bank clerks who both had broad Australian accents and used the names William Hughes and Eugene Gray.
Even with Teacher’s Mutual Bank adamant that these people were scammers, she still wasn’t entirely convinced – especially as the scammers continued to contact her even after the money was taken.
Looking back, it seems they stayed in touch because they were trying to take the remaining $500,000 from her by convincing her to withdraw the reminder the bank had placed on her last transaction.
Her main point of contact, a man posing as William Hughes, assured her the money was safe in a bizarre text message.
He also tried to get her to lift the recall on the remaining $500,000, which the bank had blocked because it believed the activity was suspicious.
When she finally realized they were scammers, she called them back and they got mean insulting her.
Eugene Gray said he would return $400,000 of his own money if she paid him another $100,000.
When she refused, he threatened her family, telling her his eldest’s name and saying he knew where she lived.
When news.com.au tried to call these numbers, Mr Hughes had disconnected his phone and Eugene Gray hung up immediately.
Ms Bridges was instructed to transfer the money to an ANZ account belonging to another man.
It is understood that this person then transferred all of his funds to the Binance cryptocurrency exchange.
The money has since left Binance, according to news.com.au.
The bank account was frozen after the bank gave the alert.
Ms Bridges said the man then angrily called her asking her to remove the funds reminder and unfreeze the account.
News.com.au has contacted the person for comment.
NSW Police have not confirmed to news.com.au whether the man is a person of interest in their investigations into Ms Bridges’ missing money.
Now more than a month after the transfer, Ms Bridges is no closer to getting her money back.
She filed reports with NSW Police and the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) about how Teachers Mutual Bank allowed one transaction to go through and not the other.
“Teachers Mutual Bank didn’t ask any questions, that should be out of the ordinary,” she said.
“They were convinced it was a scam. Why didn’t you [the bank] recover the other three transfers then? »
This is not the first time that Australian-based scammers have grabbed a huge sum of money by impersonating a bank in a very convincing way.
Earlier this month, news.com.au reported on a Melbourne widow who lost $760,000 of her husband’s life insurance payout in a crafting a Macquarie Bank term deposit website that turned out to be a fake.
In fact, it could be the same group of scammers.
The Melbourne woman tracked down her funds and found they had been funneled through instant payment systems called Cuscal and Money Tech.
For Ms Bridges, the two initial payment methods the scammers wanted her to use – both of which bounced back – were those same platforms.
In a statement, ANZ said: “We are aware of this latest bond scam, which is a particularly sophisticated operation which has unfortunately defrauded some people of their money.
“ANZ is assisting NSW Police with their ongoing investigations into the case and we are working on any relevant information that may help.”
Teachers Mutual Bank said in a statement to news.com.au: ‘Teachers Mutual Bank Limited takes investment scams very seriously. We strive to protect our members from scams and financial loss.
“As this matter is currently before the AFCA, we will continue to follow the AFCA’s complaint resolution process and uphold our confidentiality obligations to our members while this is under investigation.
“Teachers Mutual Bank Limited is in continuous communication with affected members.”
In a statement to news.com.au, Binance said they “have been made aware of the circumstances” surrounding Ms Bridges.
“As a result, we conduct our own internal due diligence via a dedicated team. Binance is committed to complying with AML/CTF regulations and working cooperatively with law enforcement.
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