The shocking costs of online dating scams

The shocking costs of online dating scams

The consumer watchdog is warning the online dating community to beware of any love interest who asks for money, after it was revealed that dating scams cost Australians $27.9 million last year.

“Sadly, $28 million was reported lost to romance scams in Australia last year by 1,032 people. Of this, 81 people reported losing over $100,000, showing just how financially devastating these scams can be. We know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg as many victims are reluctant to admit to friends, family or authorities that they fell for a scam,” Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said.

“Signing up to dating websites has proven successful for many singles seeking a match. Unfortunately it has also proven popular among scammers who prey on people’s vulnerabilities to steal their money, particularly around sentimental times of the year.”

“Scammers are experts at preying on people’s weaknesses and will spend months and even years grooming victims and lowering their defences. Inevitably, the fraudster will spin a tall tale about why they suddenly need your financial help, ranging from medical emergencies to failed business ventures to needing to rebook flights to visit you,” Ms Rickard said.

“Once victims realise that their admirer is actually a criminal, the emotional consequences can be devastating. This is why disrupting relationship scams continues to be a priority for the ACCC.”

The ACCC are also reporting a new trend of scammers targeting victims through social media, particularly Facebook. “There’s still a lot from dating sites, but we’re seeing almost as many complaints coming from people who first met the scammer on Facebook, which is worrying,” Ms Rickard told AAP.

Ms Rickard said scammers are researching their victims on social media, finding out their interests, likes, dislikes and values before making contact, thus encouraging the feeling of instant chemistry with their victims.

The key figures:

  • Dating scams cost Australians $27.9 million in 2014. This figure is up by more than 10 per cent from previous years.
  • Romance scams are the number one scam in Australia in terms of financial losses, with a victim losing an average of $27,000.
  • 1,032 people were victims of dating scams in 2014 but could be only tip of the iceberg as many victims are reluctant to admit they fell for a scam.
  • The most affected age group is 45-65.
SCAMwatch tips to protect yourself:

  • Never provide your financial details or send funds to someone you’ve met online. Scammers particularly seek money orders, wire transfers or international funds transfer as it’s rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided as scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.
  • Be very wary if you are moved off a dating website as scammers prefer to correspond through private emails or the phone to avoid detection.
  • Don’t share photos or webcam of a private nature. The ACCC has received reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.
If you think you have fallen victim to a fraudster, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and report it to Scamwatch.