Staggering cost of dating scams to Aussies
The country's consumer watchdog is warning scammers are on the prowl this Valentine's Day weekend to take advantage of hopeless romantics searching for love.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, nearly $37m was lost on romance and dating scams last year, fuelling concern from the regulator that con artists will seek to cash in on the weekend of love.
The ACCC said scammers use dating apps for "romance baiting".
Scammers meet people online and convince them to enter a private conversation on an encrypted chat site, where they attempt to establish a relationship over several weeks before asking for funds.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the financial toll of romance scams on heartbroken Australians was adding further emotional distress.
"These scams prey on people seeking connection and can leave victims with significant financial losses and emotional distress," Ms Rickard said.
"Don't take financial advice from someone you met on an app and never give financial or personal details to someone you've only met online."
While romance scams traditionally target older Australians, Ms Rickard said the rise of online tactics had resulted in nearly half of last year's losses coming from people under the age of 35.
The ACCC noted that romance scams usually baited users through small money transfers or investments into cryptocurrency, which both can lead to a scammer stealing someone's financial data.
Another tactic used to steal funds is known as "love bombing", where a scammer contacts a victim several times a day, professing their love in an attempt to make them more likely to participate in the scam.
The watchdog's Scamwatch service in 2020 received more than 400 reports related to romance baiting, which represented more than $15.2m in lost funds.
"If you match with someone on a dating app, get to know them in the app as you have more protections than if you move to a different chat site," Ms Rickard said.
"Remember that you are in control, and if you start to feel pressured by someone, stop communicating with them."
The ACCC urges victims of romance scams to contact their bank as soon as possible.
Originally published as Staggering cost of dating scams to Aussies