Commissioner's Blog: Love hurts - romance scams on the rise
While there are many success stories of people who’ve met through apps, websites and social media, there are also numerous tales of scam victims left heartbroken and with a financial loss.
Sadly, dating and romance scams are on the rise in Australia. In WA last year, 85 victims reported losing $3 million to this type of scam, up from 72 victims losing $2.2 million dollars in 2020.
Nationally, Australians reported losing more than $56 million to romance scammers in 2021, up 44 per cent from the previous year, with the majority of losses occurring through social media platforms and mobile apps.
Unfortunately we know these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, because many romance scams go unreported to authorities.
Consumer protection agencies are reminding people of the warning signs and that victims aren’t just those who are actively seeking a partner – it could be you, your friend or family member.
Scammers will express strong feelings for their victims in a relatively short period of time, and can spend many months building up trust before they ask for money. Scam victims sometimes send money because they feel the need for money is genuine, or they might send money towards an airfare believing that their love interest will visit them.
So before making contact with a potential love-interest, it’s important to check their online profile is legitimate by doing a reverse Google Image search or TinEye reverse image search. Another important tip is to arrange to meet safely in-person or ask to speak via video.
Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment through money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or gift card, or electronic currency, like Bitcoin, as it is rare to recover money sent this way.
If your bank account details have been given to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution to stop any further losses. People who have fallen victim to identity theft should contact IDCARE at www.idcare.org or call 1800 595 160, while people targeted by scams can lodge an online report via the WA ScamNet website at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au
Commissioner for Consumer Protection
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