Aussies lost more than $28.6 million to dating and romance scams in 2019, according to figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Apart from traditional online dating websites, which accounted for $7.8 million in losses, the highest amount of money lost came from Facebook (more than $2 million) and Instagram (more than $975,000).
Scammers would make their victim fall in love with the persona they developed online, then cook up complicated stories about why they can’t meet in person. They then ask the victim to send them money so they can travel to meet them. There are also cases in which scammers would meet the victim in person and ask for money, but it isn’t as common.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement romance scams are “particularly devastating” because they not only cause financial losses but create an emotional toll as well.
Where people are getting scammed the most
According to the ACCC, 31.4% of dating and romance scams happened via social media and online forums. Instagram was the most common website – accounting for 8.8% of dating and romance scam reports – while the highest amount of money was lost through Facebook.
And there was a new trend in 2019, with scammers turning to sites like Google Hangouts and online games like Words with Friends and Scrabble to lure their victims.
“We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam,” Rickard said in a statement.
“No longer are dating websites the only contact method for dating and romance scams, with an increasing number of reports coming from these emerging websites and apps.”
The ACCC went on to breakdown the top 12 ‘other’ websites and apps people got conned through, including Snapchat and Google Hangouts.
Who is mostly targeted
Those aged between 45-64 were mostly affected by these dating scams, incurring 63% (or $18 million) in losses. Women made up 54.9% of reports, followed by men at 43.3%. 1.8% of those who reported a scam didn’t specify their gender.
Most of the money lost was through bank transfers ($9.7 million) followed by other payments like iTunes and Google Play gift cards ($8.8 million).
And Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
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