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Don't let an online date cost you

4 February 2019

With Australians losing more money last year to online romance scams, consumer affairs regulators around the country are urging people to take care when entering the world of online dating.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said that in 2018 Australians reported losses of more than $24 million to dating and romance scammers to ScamWatch, compared to just over $20 million the previous year, with South Australians losing more than $1.2 million.

“According to the ACCC, South Australians reported losing more than $1.2 million to romance scams last year,” Ms Chapman said.

“Often scammers will use legitimate dating sites or other forums (such as social media) to make contact with potential victims.

“They typically use fake profiles, claiming to be from Australia or another western country but are travelling or working overseas.

“After they gain your trust, they could ask for money – often claiming financial hardship – gifts or bank account details.

“They may also seek pictures or photos of an intimate nature that they could later use to try and blackmail their intended victim.

“The people who perpetrate these scams are ruthless, they’re cunning and, far too often sadly, they are incredibly convincing,” Ms Chapman said.

“They’ll take their time and lull people into a false sense of security before asking for sensitive material – whether it’s money or personal information.”

Attorney-General Chapman encouraged consumers to be wary when dealing with people online.

“If you’re dealing with someone solely online, you have no way of knowing who you’re actually dealing with – which is why it’s so important to take simple precautions,” Ms Chapman said.

“When someone you’re talking to online asks for money – often claiming it’s because they’re having legal problems or have a sick relative – there’s a strong chance it could be a scam.

“Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, and never send them copies of personal documents, pictures or videos – because they may use that material to engage in identity fraud or blackmail.

“And if you’ve already been sending money to someone you’ve been dating online, stop sending money and cease contact with the scammer.”

People who think they may have given their account details to a scammer are advised to contact their bank immediately.

To find out more, or to report a potential scam, visit the ScamWatch website at https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/dating-romance