Don’t swipe right on a scammer this Valentine’s Day, residents warned

LOOKING for an online date this Valentine’s Day?

Be careful. 

Central West residents are advised to tread with caution as romance scammers are looking for prey on social media applications such as Tinder, Facebook Messenger and Viber.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard says women are particularly at risk of losing money to romance scams.

“Scamwatch data shows they [women] are four times more likely to report losing money compared with men,” Ms Rickard said.

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Central West Police District crime manager Detective Inspector Bruce Grassick said the number of reported scams has remained stable in his area.

“But people are often embarrassed to report money scams,” Detective Inspector Grassick said. 

“People are advised to report the matter to the authorities.

“They should not transfer any money electronically or otherwise to persons they meet over the internet, and don’t give others access to internet passwords and financial accounts.”

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A report from Scamwatch showed lonely hearts lost $24.6 million to romance scammers last year – a 20 per cent increase on 2017.

“Women reported a total financial loss of almost $20 million, while men reported a total loss of nearly $5 million,” it said. 

“People aged 45 to 64 years were the most affected.”

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A NSW Police spokesperson said scammers are preying on people through online dating sites, social media and email.

“These dating scams often involve fake profiles or accounts, with the scammer posing as a romantic prospect,” the spokesperson said.

“Romance and dating scams can be especially devastating for people as they’ve not only been duped financially, but also emotionally.”

The spokesperson encouraged people to report these scams.

“Our investigators don’t judge. All they want is to help bring scammers to justice.”

Our investigators don’t judge. All they want is to help bring scammers to justice

NSW Police spokesperson

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Ms Rickard said romance scammers begin by establishing trust to form a relationship, then start making up stories about needing money to help cover costs associated with illness, injury, business expenses, duty or customs fees, legal costs, family costs, and travel.

“Finding potential new love is exhilarating, but that can make it easy to miss the red flags that point to you falling for a scammer,” Ms Rickard said.

Finding potential new love is exhilarating but that can make it easy to miss the red flags that point to you falling for a scammer

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard

“Be careful. If someone you don’t know makes contact on social media and presents themselves as a ‘too good to be true’ catch, it’s likely they’ve done some research on you beforehand to find out things about you to create an instant bond.”

Advice from NSW Police:

  • Consider the possibility that the initial contact is a scam.
  • Do an image (Google) search on your admirer to determine if they really are who they say they are.
  • Be alert to things like spelling and grammatical mistakes and/or inconsistencies in stories.
  • Other signs of a scam include the camera not working for Skype or other chat, and dramatic or elaborate excuses for not being able to meet in person (and repeated excuses).
  • Don't fall for their ‘sob’ stories, regardless of how convincing they sound.
  • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. This is considered money laundering and is a criminal offence.
  • Be wary of requests for money. Never send money, give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don't know or trust or haven’t met.
  • Be careful about how much personal information you share on social networking sites. Scammers often use these details and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam. Never volunteer your personal details or phone number.
This story Heartless: Romance scammers are prowling dating apps this Valentine’s Day first appeared on Western Advocate.