The ACCC’s Scamwatch has given the warning to tech-savvy daters after it reported a 20 per cent increase in financial losses for 2018 from dating and romance scams, compared to 2017.
Scamwatch received almost 4,000 reports of dating and romance scams last year, and revealed that women are four times more likely to report having lost money to a romance scam, having reported total financial losses of almost $20 million last year alone.
While social media is the most common contact method scammers use, Scamwatch noted that losses reported where the scammer and victim met on an app have increased more than 300 per cent in the past two years, naming mobile apps such as Tinder, Viber and Messenger as culprit hosts.
People aged 45 to 64 were the most likely age group to report being affected by such scams, it was highlighted.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said scammers tend to go where the people are, and “in the dating world, that increasingly means on social media and dating apps”.
“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,” Ms Rickard said.
She warned those looking for love to “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.”
She urged tech-savvy daters to not give anyone money if they have only ever known the person online.
“It can pay to trust your head over your heart,” she said.
“Nearly all romance scammers will eventually reveal their intentions, which is getting your money.”
“You may think you love them and want to help, but they’ll just break your heart and deplete your bank account,” Ms Rickard said.
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.
“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,” Ms Rickard offered.