Scammers are targeting singles through popular social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Tinder and leaving many with broken hearts and empty pockets.
Many hopeful romantics have been caught out by fraudsters who are increasingly turning to not only popular social media sites but also apps such as Google Hangouts, Words with Friends and Scrabble to scam victims.
New figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission showed in 2019 they received almost 4000 reports of dating and romance scams totalling $28.6 million in funds lost.
About one in three scams resulted in a loss and the average amount stolen was more than $19,000.
The ACCC’s deputy chair deputy chair Delia Rickard said with more scams data still being processed from banks and other reporting agencies she expected a total of more than $70 million would have been lost in 2019 – up from about $60.5 million in 2018.
She warned people to be extra vigilant, especially with Valentine’s Day looming this week.
“We have lots and lots of scams on Facebook and Instagram and we see it on Skype, Twitter, Viber, LinkedIn, eBay and TikTok,” Ms Rickard said.
“Wherever you are online you are vulnerable to romance scammers.”
Ms Rickard said while traditional online dating and romance sites remained a prominent place for scammers to target victims, she said other sites and apps were catching people off guard when they weren’t specifically looking for love.
Westpac’s head of fraud Ben Young said “the golden rule is never to send money to someone you haven’t met face-to-face”.
“Online dating is a wonderful thing but when that person suddenly has an emergency and needs cash and you’re still yet to meet them it’s time to swipe left,” he said.
Victims of a scam contact should contact their financial institution and report it to the scamwatch.gov.au.