The ACCC is warning people to be careful about who they ‘friend’ online this Valentine’s Day with stats showing people are most likely to be preyed upon by dating and romance scammers on social media sites.
Australians reported losses of $20.5 million to Scamwatch from dating and romance scams in 2017 with more than 3700 reports. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Women lost nearly twice as much money as men and people aged 45 and over are most likely to be targeted.
Overall people lost $9.7 million to dating and romance scams through social media – an increase of nearly 30 per cent compared to 2016.
“Social media has overtaken online dating sites as the most common way for dating and romance scammers to contact potential victims,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and while it’s a happy day for many, for some it can be quite lonely and isolating. If you’re going on social media, a dating site or app to find a potential Mr or Ms Right, it’s important to keep your guard up to a scammer’s advances.”
Follow these helpful tips to protect yourself online from a dating and romance scammer:
- Scammers create believable profiles to present themselves as an almost too good to be true ‘catch’. Use a Google Image search to check if their profile picture is genuine.
- If the person you are interested in says they are overseas, or can’t meet you right now for any reason, be suspicious. Their excuse may sound reasonable but it is usually a lie.
- Be careful when people profess strong feelings early on. Scammers want you to fall in love with them so they can abuse your trust and feelings to get money out of you.
- Don’t ever give money to someone you have only met online. Scammers spin sympathetic tales about why they need money but don’t fall for it.
- Don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting. Scammers use these photos or webcam recordings to blackmail their victims
Western Union refunds
Western Union recently agreed to pay a penalty of US$586 million to the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) after admitting to aiding and abetting wire fraud. The DOJ is using this penalty to provide refunds to eligible people worldwide, including Australian scam victims, who were tricked into paying scammers via Western Union.
Scamwatch is urging all Australians who lost money to a scammer through Western Union from 2004 to 2017 to take action by 31 May to try to get it back. This includes victims of dating and romance scammers. Further information, including how to make an application for a refund, is available at: Victims scammed via Western Union may get refunds.