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Broken Heart, Empty Wallet: $25M Lost In ‘Dating’ Scams

There’s no love lost, but certainly a lot of cash in dating scams, as it emerged over $25 million was scammed out of lonely hearts last year. 

The consumer watchdog is warning those looking online for love not to fall into the online trap.

Almost half of Aussies who flirted dating and romance scams lost money in 2013, leaving victims with an empty pocket and a broken heart.  

“Scammers are experts at preying on people’s vulnerabilities, particularly around sentimental times of the year such as Valentine’s Day,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

The ACCC received 2,770 reports of Dating and Romance scams in 2013, and victims lost almost $25.3m. Alarm bells should go off if they request money, especially via wire transfer. 

400 people lost in excess of $10,000 and 64 lost over $100,000 to dating scams, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

This marks a 13.6 per cent surge compared to 2012. 

“Scammers go to great lengths to gain your trust, spending months and even years building a relationship with you. Once your defenses are lowered, they spin an elaborate tale about how they need your financial help with a crisis, such as being ill or stranded and ask for money,” Rickard said. 

 “These scams can also pose a risk to your personal safety as scammers are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers have lured unwitting Australian victims overseas, putting people in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.”

If you are meeting locally in person, choose a public place and let family or friends know where you are. Also, run a Google image search using any photos provided by someone you met online as they may have been used in various profiles and could be a stolen identity.

SCAMwatch tips
– Keep your personal details personal: Never share personal information or photos with someone you don’t know and trust especially photos or webcam of a private nature. The ACCC has received reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.

– Watch out: If an online admirer asks to communicate with you outside the dating website, such as through a private email address or over the phone, be wary – they could be trying to avoid detection.

– Search: Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided. Scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.

– Think twice: Never send money to someone you’ve met on line, especially via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer – it’s rare to recover money sent this way.

– Report: If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.