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Wednesday, 13 February 2019 10:02

Beware Valentine’s Day scammers, they are after your money Featured

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Tech-savvy daters have been alerted to watch out for romance scammers this Valentine’s Day, with the consumer watchdog, the ACCC warning that scams are increasingly happening through social media and dating apps.

And according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, women are particularly at risk to losing money to romance scams with Scamwatch data showing they are four times more likely to report losing money compared to men.

“Scammers tend to go where people are, and in the dating world that increasingly means on social media and dating apps,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

Scamwatch received nearly 4000 reports of dating and romance scams last year, with losses of over $24.6 million – a 20% increase from 2017, with women reporting a total financial loss of almost $20 million while men reported a total loss of almost $5 million. People aged 45 to 64 were the most affected.

{loadposition peter]The ACCC says social media is the most common contact method used by scammers to engage their victims, but Scamwatch is seeing increasing reports of romance scammers using mobile apps like Tinder, Facebook Messenger and Viber. Losses reported where the scammer and victim met on an app have increased more than 300% in the past two years.

Rickard says romance scammers begin by establishing trust to form a relationship, then start making up stories about needing money to help cover costs associated with illness, injury, business expenses, duty or customs fees, legal costs, family costs, and travel.

“The scam can continue for years and Scamwatch receives many heart breaking stories about the financial and emotional toll they take,” she said.

“Finding potential new love is exhilarating but that can make it easy to miss the red flags that point to you falling for a scammer.

“Be careful if someone you don’t know makes contact on social media and presents themselves as a ‘too good to be true’ catch. It’s likely they’ve done some research on you beforehand to find out things about you to create an instant bond.

“On apps, it can be trickier as the whole point is meeting new people. However, nearly all romance scammers will eventually reveal their intentions, which is getting your money. If you’ve only ever known the person online or through an app, don’t give them money. You may think you love them and want to help, but they’ll just break your heart, and deplete your bank account.

“It can pay to trust your head over your heart. If you have any doubts about someone you have met online or through an app, doing a Google search on their name and pictures can often reveal scammers. Go to Scamwatch.gov.au to learn more about how you can tell if a romance scammer has you in their sights.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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