26 September 2023

Love is in the air for romantic scammers

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Canberrans are being urged to have a heart-to-heart with their family and friends this week as Valentine’s Day (14 February) brought fresh warnings of romance scams.

Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Catriona Lowe said new data revealed that Australians lost more than $40 million to romance scams in 2022.

With more people meeting through social media and dating apps, Ms Lowe said it had never been more important for Australians to be absolutely sure of who they were communicating with.

“Scammers are cold-hearted criminals who use unscrupulous tactics to trick their victims into sharing their personal details and emptying their wallets,” Ms Lowe said.

“That’s why we are asking Australians to check in with the people they love and to help them recognise the signs if a person they’ve met online isn’t real,” she said.

“Romance scammers will pull on their victim’s heartstrings to get what they want.”

Ms Lowe highlighted the need for friends, family, businesses and the community to talk more about scams, saying that distressing romance scam stories were “sadly all too common”.

“If you are concerned that someone you know could be involved in a romance scam, have a calm conversation with them and ask gentle questions about the nature of the relationship, such as why they haven’t been able to video chat or meet in person,” the Deputy Chair said.

“Warn them not to share personal photos or videos as these can be used by scammers to blackmail their victims and tell them to contact their bank immediately if they have lost money.”

Echoing the warning, Commander Cybercrime Operations with the Australian Federal Police, Chris Goldsmid said scammers had become highly sophisticated and were going to extreme lengths to trick their victims and gain their trust to obtain money.

“The social media and dating profiles they create can look very legitimate and they invest significant amounts of time, sometimes years, grooming their victims,” Commander Goldsmid said.

“We all like to think that we’re too smart to fall victim to a romance scam, but the truth is that scammers are more cunning than ever and have become extremely difficult to spot,” he said.

“In addition to the extreme heartbreak and financial loss, many victims feel ashamed and embarrassed about telling anyone about being scammed.”

Commander Goldsmid said anyone who suspected they had fallen victim to a scam should gather as much information as possible about the fraud, contact their financial institution and report it to the police.

Information on how to spot the warning signs of a romance scam can be accessed at this PS News link.

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