FACEBOOK has become the number one method in which “lonely heart’’ scammers meet — and then deceive — their vulnerable victims.
The social media giant is the most common way for conmen and women to make contact with potential lonely victims, who handed over $25 million to “fake’’ lovers last year.
The figure was revealed as “sextortion’’ has become one of the fastest growing scams in Australia, with almost 500 people reporting they have been blackmailed over sexually explicit pictures of themselves.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Targeting Scams report today reveals that Australians have been duped out of almost $300 million by scammers in the last year.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said: “We have witnessed a sharp increase in scams taking place through social media sites. It can be really hard to tell who’s genuine and who’s fake these days.
“Dating and romance scammers trick their victims into falling in love with them and then use their victim’s trust to deceitfully take their money. If someone you’ve met through social media but you’ve never met in person asks you for money, your alarm bells should be ringing.’’
Ms Rickard said she believed many Australians were too embarrassed to reveal they had fallen for a con and the true scale of money lost to scammers last year could top $3 billion. In one instance of sextortion, a man was contacted by a femme fatale on Facebook and over time engaged in explicit sexual acts with her online. She then blackmailed him to stop her posting the video to his friends and colleagues. He paid but she posted it anyway.
“The scammers see that people will pay because this causes them enormous embarrassment,’’ Ms Rickard said.
“The best way to prevent embarrassment is not to share intimate photos or footage in the first place.”