Valentine’s Day can be tough if you’re on your own, but it’s a great day for online scammers who prey callously on people looking for love.
ACCC data shows that Australians reported losses of $28 million in 2014 to romance and dating scams, as Victorians lost close to $7 million to criminals promising relationships but instead taking the money and running.
Alarmingly, the cruel crime is growing as the figures show more people were conned than last year when $5.5 million was paid on empty promises. The strike rate of the fraudsters is high. Nearly 50 percent of people approached fall for it.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jane Garrett, has urged people to be wary of scams and pitfalls of online dating.
Ms Garrett said the real amounts stolen could be much higher than the official figures because many people don’t report the crime due to their embarrassment and sense of shame.
One Victorian woman who lost more than $260,000 within weeks to an online romance scammer has gone public, featuring in a new online video campaign run by Consumer Affairs Victoria aimed at stopping others from being duped.
Simple tips to protect yourself against romance scammers include:
· Use Google image search to check if their image has been used elsewhere
· Do not send money to people you have never met in person or give anyone your bank details
· Be wary if online dating profile pictures do not match the descriptions, or look like they were taken from a magazine
Quotes attributable to Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jane Garrett
“Around Valentine’s Day, people can be particularly vulnerable to romance scammers who prey on their trust and search for love.”
“These con artists are usually based overseas and are very good at telling elaborate stories as they systematically work their way into hearts and bank accounts.”
“If you have been tricked on a dating website, please, do not keep it to yourself. Report it. Silence gives these cruel con artists a licence to find their next trusting person.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020