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Valentine's Day scam that's worse than having to buy flowers

VALENTINE'S SCAM: The ACCC is warning people chasing romance online to be wary of scams.
VALENTINE'S SCAM: The ACCC is warning people chasing romance online to be wary of scams. Georja Ryan

IF YOU'RE love lost, don't get your heart broken this Valentine's Day by online scams.

Last year 4,100 people reported falling for dating and romance scams had lost more than $25 million, the largest amount of money lost to any type of scam.

Last month more than $1.8 million was lost to dating and romance scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning people to be wary of scammers when chasing romance online or on social media.

"Reports of dating and romance scams increased by more than a third in 2016 and, sadly, the amount of money reported lost has also increased by about $3 million compared to 2015," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

ACCC stats showed Facebook was a popular way for romance scammers to make contact with their victims.

People aged 45 and over were most at risk.

"Scammers create very believable profiles, including stealing the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working abroad. If you meet someone who seems too good to be true, do some research to see if they're the real deal," Ms Rickard said.

"Look for inconsistencies in their stories. For example, do they say they are university educated but have poor English and grammar? Is their profile picture legitimate or stolen? These are red flags that you're likely dealing with a scammer.

"Perhaps the biggest warning sign is when a scammer asks you for money. After gaining your trust - often waiting weeks, months or even years - they tell you an elaborate story involving some crisis, or plan to travel to see you and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details."

 

WATCH OUT: Stats on romance and dating online scams.
WATCH OUT: Stats on romance and dating online scams. ACCC

How to protect yourself:

Never provide your financial details or send funds to someone you've met online. Scammers particularly seek money orders, wire transfers or international funds transfer as it's rare to recover money sent this way.

Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided as scammers often use fake photos they've found online.

Be very wary if you are moved off a dating website as scammers prefer to correspond through private emails or the phone to avoid detection.

Don't share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting. The ACCC has received reports of scammers using such photos or webcam recordings to blackmail victims.

If you think you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and report it.

You can report suspect scams to scamwatch.gov.au.

Topics:  editors picks online dating online scams scamwatch valentine's day


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