With valentine’s day just around the corner, people are no doubt going to be using dating and romance apps; however, consumers are warned to be on the lookout for scammers. In Australia, one fifth off all losses involved scams from these services, according to a report from ScamWatch 2019.
The report claims there were nearly 4,000 dating and romance scams in Australia during 2019. In total, losses exceeded $28.6m ($18.7m). Around 37.5% of reports resulted in a loss, with an average of AUS $19,000 ($12,746).
Traditional online dating websites were responsible for the highest number of incidents, with 665 victims losing a combined AUS $7.8m ($5.2m). Instagram had the second largest number of victims, with 347; however, total losses were only third largest at AUS $975,000 ($654,000).
Facebook had the third most victims with 325, but the combined losses reached AUS $2m ($1.3m). Popular dating app Tinder witnessed 176 fraud victims, with losses reaching AUD $814,000 ($546,000).
Around 31.4% of these dating scams occurred on social media and online forums with 33% of all losses were from such websites.
Other websites where dating and romance fraud occurred in 2019 include Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plenty of Fish, Google Hangouts, Bumble, Match.com, eHarmony, Snapchat and others.
People aged 45-64 were the most impacted with 1,470 reports of fraud and over AUD $18m ($12m) in losses.
Women were the most targeted with 54.9% (2,165) of the incidents. They also reported the highest losses with AUS $21.5m ($14.4m) of the total losses. This represents 75.3% of all losses to these scams.
Most of the fraud cases involved bank transfers; however, other payment methods included iTunes, Steam and Google Play gift cards.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said, “We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam.
“No longer are dating websites the only contact method for dating and romance scams, with an increasing number of reports coming from these emerging websites and apps.
“Romance scams are particularly devastating because not only are there financial losses, but there is also an emotional toll for the victim, which can have lasting psychological impacts on people.”
Dating and romance scammers attempt to make their target fall in love with their false persona and will quickly profess their love to them. Typically, the fabricate a complex story of why they cannot meet in person and ask the victim to transfer money or send financial aid so they can travel to meet them.
Some incidents occurred where the scammer would meet in person and ask for money.
If a person does send money, the scammer will ask for more. If they refuse, the scammer may get aggressive or try to guilt trip the victim.
Rickard said, “If you’re interacting with someone online, it’s important to be alert and consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.
“Don’t give out personal information, including your financial details, to anybody you haven’t met in person, no matter who they say they are, and don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting.
“Don’t agree to carry packages internationally or agree to transfer money for someone else as you may be inadvertently committing a crime.”
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