With romance scams at an unprecedented level ahead of Valentine’s Day, Australians are advised to do their homework on any would-be suitors.
According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch, there was a 30 per cent increase in romance scams reported for 2020, with over 3,500 scams inflicting losses of more than $37.2 million.
February has also become the biggest month for romance scam activity as affairs of the heart become avenues for life changing financial decisions.
With scammers evolving their tactics during the pandemic, Australians should be wary of unexpected introductions by phone, social media platforms and dating websites, says Leanne Vale, Director of Services and Financial Crimes for the Customer Owned Banking Association.
“Imagination can run wild when communicating online, but you should stay grounded and ask yourself ‘Is this real?
Is the person I am talking to the same person I am seeing on my computer or device camera?
Scammers want to know if you are worth their time and investment.
Hence, they learn as much as possible and determine which psychological triggers will work best.
Dating apps have opened possibilities to find love and companionship, but scammers look to hook you in and then move communications somewhere else.
If you believe you have fallen victim to a scammer, cut off communications, talk to a trusted friend or relative, and check the resources on Scamwatch.
It’s all about gaining control of your life and finances and the sooner you can do this the better.
Contrary to perception, younger Australians are not exempt from romance scams. While 45 to 54-year-olds remain the largest target group, reported scams by 25 to 34-year-olds have increased by 38% in one year to become a major target group.
This also highlights the rise of social networking, which has become the biggest channel of scam activity.”
A fraud expert’s advice
A former Australian Federal Police Officer, Mrs Vale is a leading expert on fraud and financial crimes with over three decades of experience.
Her top tips:
- Don’t share personal information with someone you haven’t met. From banking details to the most intimate photos, which can be used for blackmail.
- Check for catfishes by running an image search on your would-be suitor. Google or TinEye searches can often find the real alias.
- Look for glitches in the detail. For example, spelling mistakes, inconsistent stories, or never being available for a Zoom or Facetime call.
- Do a little homework on their background and where they live. Ask questions which test their local knowledge.
Now is the time to take action and set yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves as the market moves on
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