ACCC Warns On Dating Scams
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning to the online dating community to watch out for love interests asking for money.
Figures show that 2,620 Australians last year reported losing almost $23 million to dating and romance scams to the ACCC.
“Romance scams continue to cause significant emotional and financial harm to the community. 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,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard commented.
“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 re-book flights to visit you.
“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 states that its Scam Disruption Project has sent over 6,000 letters asking individuals who sent money to high risk juridictions to reconsider sending money offshore, with 75 per cent of these people ceasing sending money for at least six weeks.
“Nearly one quarter of reported romance scams originate on social media, in particular Facebook,” Rickard commented.
“The ACCC is looking to work with social media platforms to keep romance scammers off their sites and to help users recognise when they are being scammed.”
The ACCC has updated best practice guidelines, assisting the online dating industry to combat scams, with the revised version of the guidelines aiming “to address the evolving nature of online scams and provide the latest advice”.
“The ACCC now seeks the continued cooperation of industry in implementing the revised guidelines and encourages their adoption by any dating site that has not yet taken steps to protect their users from scammers,” Rickard stated.
“If online dating sites don’t have advice about safe dating practices, then consumers should carefully consider whether those sites have their best interests at heart.”
– 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.