Australians are urged to keep an eye out for dating and romance scams this Valentine’s Day after there was a record high of $56 million (US$40 million) in reported losses to Scamwatch in 2021, an increase of 44 percent.
But the full extent of losses to romance scams is much higher, as Scamwatch’s internal research showed that only around 13 percent of all scam victims report to the website.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning Australians that romance scammers play on emotional triggers to take advantage of victims, often using techniques such as confessing love very quickly to influence victims.
The scammers then make up elaborate stories asking the victim to send them money, gifts, or financial information.
Another scam method is “romance baiting,” where the scammer develops a connection on a dating app then offers to show the victim how to invest, often in cryptocurrency.
“Scammers can come up with endless reasons to try and convince you to send money. If you start to feel pressured by your admirer, stop communicating with them,” Rickard said.
A warning sign is when scammers provide endless excuses as to why they cannot meet in person or use video calls.
“Never send money or give personal or financial information to someone you’ve only met online. Think very carefully about taking investment or financial advice from someone on a dating app,” Rickard said.
People aged 55 and over made up almost half the reported losses to romance scams, and women reported higher losses than men.
“It’s not just ‘love’ that’s in the air around Valentine’s Day, scammers are busy targeting Queenslanders looking for love,” she said.
Fentiman urged people to make online checks, such as image searching to determine if the romantic interest’s profile photo is legitimate and keeping communication solely within the app on which the potential partner was found.
Previously, ACCC advised consumers buying flowers for Valentine’s Day to ask where the flowers are coming from and make sure they are not misled into thinking “order gatherers” are local florists.
ACCC is currently investigating the florist industry, particularly the operation of online order gatherers that are large businesses that outsource orders to local florists, making them appear to be locally-based businesses.
Feb. 14 is the busiest day for florists and usually would be for restaurants as well. However, due to the current Omicron outbreak in Australia, people are unlikely to go on dinner dates in usual numbers.