Commissioner's Blog: Be careful when looking for love
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February is often the time of year associated with all things romantic because of Valentine’s Day celebrations so consumer affairs regulators across the country are reminding online daters to be careful with their information while looking for love.
Australians lost $20.2 million in dating and romance scams in 2017, with most scammers targeting people on social media, email or websites. This was a decrease of financial loss of approximately $5 million from 2016 statistics.
The 2017 figures for Western Australia also showed a reduction in financial losses from dating and romance scams with $2,029,012 in losses reported compared to $4,098,758 in 2016. But this does not mean we should become complacent, as there were still 51 reported romance scam victims in WA last year and many more cases go unreported.
Scammers will often create very realistic profiles online, and will share information that makes them seem quite legitimate. They are likely to target over 45s who are looking for relationships and are in a comfortable financial position.
Scammers will aim to gain your trust and friendship. They will then seek an opportunity to ask for money by claiming they need assistance to pay for flights, medical bills and so on, but not until they have thoroughly convinced you they are real and genuine.
We are urging consumers to stay vigilant online, particularly while engaging with people from overseas. Follow these simple tips to help recognise a scammer:
- Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online.
- Be wary of anyone who asks you for money. This can happen within days, weeks or months of meeting someone online. Never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. You can do this via Google images by clicking on the camera icon on the desktop version of the site’s search bar. This can help you identify if the image has been taken from someone else, or belongs to a few people with different names.
- Be careful about the amount of personal information you share and avoid sharing compromising material, which scammers can use to blackmail you.
- If you agree to meet someone in person, make sure you let your family and friends know where you will be going.
Further information is available from our WA ScamNet website at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au and we urge everyone to report any suspicious activity to us on 1300 30 40 54 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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