More than 2600 Australians reported being duped, with nearly a quarter of the dating and romance scams originating on social media.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said the reported losses were the “tip of the iceberg”, with many people reluctant to admit they had fallen for a scam.
“Scammers are experts at preying on peoples weaknesses and will spend months and even years grooming victims and lowering their defences,” Rickard said.
“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.”
Rickard said once people realise their admirer is a criminal, the emotional consequences can be devastating.
People who reported the highest number of scams were aged between 45 and 54, while the 55 to 64 age group lost the most money.
ACCC SCAMWATCH TIPS
- Never provide financial details or send funds to someone you meet online. Scammers particularly seek money orders, wire transfers or international funds transfer as its 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 www.scamwatch.gov.au
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