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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Romance scam warning ahead of Valentine’s Day

New figures have revealed financial losses to romance and dating scams hit a staggering $3.7 million in Western Australia in 2023, prompting a fresh warning from Consumer Protection ahead of Valentine’s Day. 

In 2023, WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection heard from 71 consumers who lost more than $3.7 million to dating and romance scams, up 27 per cent from the $2.8 million reported by 67 victims in 2022.

A similar story played out across Australia last year, with the National Anti-Scam Centre’s Scamwatch reporting a total of $30 million was lost, mostly via social networking platforms.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Trish Blake, warns that scammers typically target victims using a range of digital platforms, including social networking, dating sites and apps, as well as instant-messaging platforms. 

“Romance scammers play on emotional triggers to take advantage of their victims – they often profess love and affection very quickly, to try to influence you,” Ms Blake said.

“We also know that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the latest deepfake technology to create video clips of themselves, aimed at further tricking their victims into believing they are real people.

“Once a scammer has established trust, they will share elaborate stories and ask for money they say is to cover costs with illness, injury, business expenses, duty or customs fees, legal costs, family crises or travel.

“In a technique called ‘romance baiting’, scammers may also develop a relationship before convincing you to participate in a false investment, usually in cryptocurrency.

“We want everyone to remember that scams are a crime and not the victim’s fault – romance scams in particular can cause significant emotional suffering, on top of financial loss.”

When it comes to love, consumers are urged to listen to their heads as well as their hearts by taking the following steps to protect themselves from romance and dating scammers:

  • Arrange to meet in person – if they can’t, it’s a warning sign. Video calls may be manipulated by scammers with deepfake technology.
  • Watch out for any request to send them money through methods such as money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded cards, or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. If you are the victim of a scam, it is difficult to recover money sent through these methods.
  • Never share your bank account or credit card details with, or transfer money to, someone you haven’t met in person.
  • If you feel uncomfortable with someone’s advances or demands for money, end the communication immediately.
  • If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible. You should also contact the platform on which you were scammed and inform them of the circumstances.
  • Consumers experiencing emotional distress can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more information about romance scams, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/dating-romance 

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