Older Australians travelling overseas are being used as unwitting drug mules by international criminal organisations. The Australian Federal Police warns scams where travellers are tricked into carrying illicit drugs into Australia are on the rise.
By
Marina Freri

6 Jun 2014 - 5:55 PM  UPDATED 6 Jun 2014 - 8:12 PM

Older Australians travelling overseas are being used as unwitting drug mules by international criminal organisations.

The Australian Federal Police warns scams where travellers are tricked into carrying illicit drugs into Australia are on the rise.

Late last year an unsuspecting elderly couple from Perth found themselves carrying $7 million worth of methamphetamine into the country.

Australian Federal Police National Aviation Manager, Leanne Close, said the travellers were returning from a trip to Canada, which they won through an online competition.

She said free bags were also awarded to the couple, who became caught up in an international drug ring.

"It was actually an internet scam they became involved in. 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," Ms Close said.

The AFP investigation into the incident later revealed the existence of a complex organised scam in which older Australians were targeted by a fake Canadian-based travel company.

A 38-year-old Canadian man was later arrested in Perth in relation to the incident, and pleaded guilty to drug importation.

Leanne Close said scammers are increasingly targeting older travellers.

"We've seen a slight increase I must say in relation to this sort of scams. Certainly the access of the Internet for people does seem to make people a little bit more vulnerable in some instances," she said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said older Australians should exercise extra caution when making travel plans.

He said if a deal seems too good to be true, most likely isn't a real deal.

"We've certainly seen some instances of that and we 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," Minister Keenan said.

Minister Keenan said any holiday destination can be used by drug traffickers to lure Australian travellers.

"There is an instance that has been in court recently, where people were given a free trip to Canada but there are other instances that are still before court that I won't go into. It could be to any destination really that criminals could use this sort of tactics."              

The AFP's Leanne Close is also warning travellers about carrying luggage on behalf of someone else, even if it's a family member asking for a favour.

"Certainly people should again be very wary of people offering things like free luggage or different luggage to carry back into Australia. Sadly we've also had occasions where family members had been tricked into these scams by other members of their families, but that's quite rare,” she said.