Scammers are targeting unsuspecting Australians looking for love – with the latest data revealing more than $28 million was lost to romance scams in 2019.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission says dating and romance scams accounted for one-fifth of all losses reported to the scam watchdog last calendar year.
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Australians reported almost 4,000 dating and romance scams in 2019, with losses of more than $28.6 million.
About three in every eight reports resulted in a loss of money, with an average of more than $19,000.
While scammers took advantage of the usual platforms – including Facebook and other dating sites – a troubling new trend emerged.
Apps like Google Hangouts or online games such as Words with Friends and Scrabble were used to try and con their victims.
Scammers engaging in apps where users aren’t actively seeking love is troubling, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says.
“We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam,” she said.
“No longer are dating websites the only contact method for dating and romance scams, with an increasing number of reports coming from these emerging websites and apps.
“Romance scams are particularly devastating because not only are there financial losses, but there is also an emotional toll for the victim, which can have lasting psychological impacts on people.”
How it works
Romance and dating scams work with scammers attempting to make their target fall for a persona they have created.
Normally, but not always, they will fabricate complicated stories about why they can’t meet in person and ask the victim to send them money or financial aid so they can travel to meet.
While not common, there have been instances where the scammer meets in person and requests money.
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“If you’re interacting with someone online, it’s important to be alert and consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam,” Rickard said.
“Don’t give out personal information, including your financial details, to anybody you haven’t met in person, no matter who they say they are, and don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting.
“Don’t agree to carry packages internationally or agree to transfer money for someone else as you may be inadvertently committing a crime.”
People can report a scam to the ACCC through Scamwatch, which offers further information on how to protect yourself from scams.
Where it’s happening
Most common apps scammers are targeting:
- Other – 849 reports
- Online dating sites – 665 reports
- Instagram – 347 reports
- Facebook – 176 reports
- Skype – 90 reports
Most common apps under “other”
- Plenty of Fish – 230 reports
- Google Hangouts – 142 reports
- Zoosk – 70 reports
- Match.com – 50 reports
- Words with Friends – 38 reports