Scamwatch is urging people to watch out for dating and romance scams after Australians reported losing a record $56 million last year, an increase of 44 per cent.
Over 3,400 reports were received about dating and romance scams in 2021, including many people concerned about a family member who got caught up in a scam. Over half of all reports were about romance scams on social networking websites or dating apps.
Losses to scams are likely to be much higher than reported to Scamwatch, as our research shows that of all scam victims, only around 13% report to Scamwatch.
"It’s important to look out for friends or family members who are using online dating apps and talk about how to spot romance scams," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Talking about scams, including your own experiences, can help others identify them and may prevent them from falling victim in the future.”
Romance scammers play on emotional triggers to take advantage of victims. They often use ‘love bombing’ techniques, such as professing love and affection very quickly, to try to influence victims.
The scammer will then come up with elaborate stories asking the intended target to send money, gifts or financial information.
Another variation of the scam is called ‘romance baiting’. Once the scammer has developed a connection on a dating app, they will offer to show the victim how to invest, often in cryptocurrency, turning the romance scam into an investment scam.
“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,” Ms Rickard said.
“Another red flag to look out for is when scammers provide constant excuses as to why they cannot meet in person or use the video function.”
People aged over 55 made up close to half the losses to romance scams ($25 million), and women reported higher losses than men.
“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,” Ms Rickard said.
“Do an internet search with the name or photo of your love interest or some of the phrases they have used to try to identify if it is a scam.”
Anyone who thinks they have been scammed, is advised to contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible. They should also contact the platform on which they were scammed and inform them of the circumstances of the scam.
As well as financial losses, romance scams can also cause significant emotional suffering. Anyone experiencing emotional distress about their experience with a scam, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more advice on how to avoid dating and romance scams and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, visit Dating & romance scams.