Canberrans seeking love are being urged to use their heads as well as their hearts, following a spike in dating and romance scams over the past year.
Leading the call for caution, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Shane Rattenbury said Territorians lost almost $2 million to dating and romance scams last year.
Mr Rattenbury said scammers were using a broader range of digital platforms to target victims, including social media, dating websites and apps, and instant messaging services.
“Across Australia, over $56 million was lost to romance scams last year, mainly through social media and apps,” he said.
“This is a significant increase from $38.9 million in 2020.
“We want Canberrans to be aware of these scams.”
Mr Rattenbury said there were a number of steps people could take to protect themselves against scammers, including online checks, such as a reverse image search to find out whether their romantic interest was legitimate.
“One of the best ways you can protect yourself is to never provide money or bank details to someone you have never met, even if you have known them online for several months,” he said.
Mr Rattenbury said some key red flags to look out for included requests for funding, usually small amounts that build over time; a reluctance to meet or talk on the phone; and a potential partner based overseas who wanted money to cover travel expenses to meet in person.
He said anyone who thought they may have been scammed, even if they had not suffered a financial loss, to report the matter to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) through Scamwatch.
“By reporting scams to the ACCC, you’re helping them monitor trends, warn people about emerging issues and disrupt scams where possible.
“Your actions could save someone from the emotional and financial toll of being scammed, so please don’t be embarrassed to report if you’ve been scammed,” Mr Rattenbury said.