Victorians going online for love this Valentine’s Day are being warned to watch out for scammers asking for money.
Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said Victorians were conned out of more than $4 million in 2015 to fraudsters who systematically targeted their victims on online dating sites.
Almost 500 Victorians filed complaints with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch last year but that number is likely to be much higher with many scams going unreported.
Nationally, 2,620 Australians lost almost $23 million to romance scams in 2015. More than $4.4 million was lost during the month of February alone.
Ms Garrett said the scammers were often based overseas and preyed on the emotions of vulnerable people before stealing their money.
The online con artists often go to extreme lengths to create realistic profiles and ‘groom’ their victims over many weeks, months or years to build a relationship. Once they have gained their victim’s trust, they start asking for money for a range of emotive reasons.
One woman lost $15,000 to an online scammer after she went on a dating website looking for love. Maria is part of a new campaign run by Consumer Affairs Victoria to warn others of the pitfalls of online dating.
For more information on romance scams and how to avoid them, visit consumer.vic.gov.au/scamsavvy
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming & Liquor Regulation Jane Garrett
“Don’t fall victim to an online romance scams this Valentine’s Day. Look out for the warning signs and never send money to someone you’ve never met.”
“These heartless fraudsters will do everything they can to convince you that the relationship is real before taking your money and running.”
“Romance scams often cause financial and emotional distress. If you think you’re being scammed, report it as soon as possible so we can stop these criminals in their tracks. ”
Reviewed 19 August 2020