This Valentine’s Day, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a report saying 2,620 Australians have lost close to $23 million to dating and romance scams.
On the ACCC media release, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said: “Romance scams continue to cause significant emotional and financial harm to the community. We know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg as many victims are reluctant to admit to friends, family or authorities that they fell for a scam.
“Scammers are experts at preying on people’s weaknesses and will spend months and even years grooming victims and lowering their defences. Inevitably, the fraudster will spin a tall tale about why they suddenly need your financial help, ranging from medical emergencies to failed business ventures to needing to rebook flights to visit you.”
The ACCC’s Scam Disruption Project has sent over 6,000 letters asking individuals who sent money to high risk juridictions to reconsider sending money offshore. Three quarters (75 per cent) of those people who received these letters ceased sending money for at least six weeks.
“Once victims realise that their admirer is actually a criminal, the emotional consequences can be devastating. This is why disrupting relationship scams continues to be a priority for the ACCC,” Rickard said.
“Nearly one quarter of reported romance scams originate on social media, in particular Facebook. The ACCC is looking to work with social media platforms to keep romance scammers off their sites and to help users recognise when they are being scammed,” Ms Rickard said.
The ACCC has updated best practice guidelines to assist the online dating industry to combat scams. The revised version of the guidelines aims to address the evolving nature of online scams and provide the latest advice. Sites that take steps to implement these guidelines create a safer online environment for their customers.
- Never provide your financial details or send funds to someone you’ve met online. Scammers particularly seek money orders, wire transfers or international funds transfer as it’s rare to recover money sent this way.
- Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided as scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.
- Be very wary if you are moved off a dating website as scammers prefer to correspond through private emails or the phone to avoid detection.
- Don’t share photos or webcam of a private nature. The ACCC has received reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.