Editor’s note: Audio grabs of AFP Commander Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid and money muling romance scam infographics are available via Hightail.
The AFP is warning that criminals are using dating apps to find victims to financially defraud, launder money or transport illicit drugs.
This Valentine’s Day, the AFP is urging the public to be extra vigilant to ensure they don’t fall victim to romance scams or inadvertently become complicit in crime.
While swiping left or right, or saying yes or no, is a common method to meet people, dating platforms and social media are also an avenue for criminals to find victims.
Some criminals also set up fake accounts to lure victims to them.
There is also a growing trend where victims refuse to accept the person they believe they are in a relationship with is a romance scammer.
In one recent case, the AFP prevented a woman from losing about $50,000 to an online scammer who she believed was her boyfriend.
Authorities in Western Australia intercepted a package of money before it was sent to another state in Australia.
When the AFP spoke to the woman she allegedly told them her boyfriend needed the money to pay his workers until he could free up more cash.
Police say the online conversations and details the woman showed them made it clear she had been the target of a romance scam. Investigations into the identity of the offender are ongoing.
The AFP is urging the public to be mindful of common red flags, including;
- A person saying they live overseas;
- Someone who invests a significant amount of time talking to a person;
- Someone who quickly professes their love for a person;
- Someone who is unable to do video call or meet in person; and
- Someone saying they are in a major crisis and desperately need money.
Last year Scamwatch reported more than $40 million in losses to romance scams – the second highest financial loss of any scam category – despite accounting for only 15 per cent of all scam reports.
While women made fewer than half of the reports about scams, they experienced the biggest financial loss, making up 68 per cent of losses totalling $27 million.
People aged 65 and over are also a common target for scammers, submitting more than 600 reports with a total financial loss of nearly $13 million.
Nearly half of the reported scams began on mobile or social networking applications.
AFP Commander Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid said many cyber criminals were driven by greed.
“Scammers have become highly sophisticated and are going to extreme lengths to trick their victims and gain their trust to obtain money,’’ Commander Goldsmid said.
“The social media and dating profiles they create can look very legitimate and they invest significant amounts of time, sometimes years, grooming their victims.
“We all like to think that we’re too smart to fall victim to a romance scam, but the truth is that scammers are more cunning than ever and have become extremely difficult to spot.”
There are also many instances of people unknowingly laundering money or transporting illicit drugs for criminals.
Commander Goldsmid said if something did not feel right, stop and talk to a trusted friend or family member about the situation.
“Never send money or share your personal information with somebody you haven’t met in person.
“In addition to the extreme heartbreak and financial loss, many victims feel ashamed and embarrassed about telling anyone about being scammed.
“If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam you should gather as much information as possible about the fraud, contact your financial institution and report it to the police.”
“The sooner these crimes are reported, the better chance there is of ensuring funds are not lost to scammers.
“Don’t be ashamed to talk to you family, friends, neighbours and co-workers about your experience. Doing so may prevent someone else from becoming a victim.”
For more information about romance scams visit Scamwatch.
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