14 February 2018

Looking for love online? Here is how to protect your heart and wallet this Valentine's Day

| Lachlan Roberts
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Valentines Day

My Not-so-funny-Valentine: The day for lovers is also a field day for online scammers.

The ACT Government is warning Canberrans to protect their hearts and wallets when looking for love online this Valentine’s Day.

Minister for Consumer Affairs Shane Rattenbury said that last year, Australians lost $20.2 million in dating and romance scams and he encouraged Canberrans to be cautious with personal information and funds when it comes to looking for love online.

“Key red flags to look for in potential scams include requests for funding (often small that build over time), a reluctance to meet or talk on the phone and a potential partner based overseas who seeks funding to travel to ‘meet’.

Mr Rattenbury said romance scams tended to spike around February each year and online and social media were rapidly becoming the platforms of choice for scammers.

“In 2016, Canberrans lost $886,292 through dating and romance scams and 11 Canberrans reported losing more than $10,000 through this type of scam. Those aged over 45 years are often the key target.”

“Most scammers target people on social media, by email or on dating websites. Unfortunately, victims of such scams can feel embarrassed or ashamed and it often means many such instances of scamming are not reported,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Mr Rattenbury said the behavior of scammers was becoming more sophisticated and unfortunately they preyed on the vulnerabilities of those they are contacting.

“Scammers often create realistic profiles online and will share information that seems legitimate.

“Unfortunately the old adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true it is probably is’ rings true in many of those instances and it is important to be informed and aware to help protect your heart and wallet.”

Here are some helpful tips to help you figure out if your online lover is not trying to scam you:

  • Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online;
  • Be wary of anyone who asks you for money. This can happen within days, weeks or months of meeting someone online. Never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer;
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. You can do this via Google images by clicking on the camera icon on the desktop version of the site’s search bar. This can help you identify if the image has been taken from someone else, or belongs to a few people with different names;
  • Be careful about the amount of personal information you share and avoid sharing compromising material, which scammers can use to blackmail you.

For more information or to report a potential scammer visit the Fair Trading Portal.

Have you had your money taken from an online scammer? Let us know your experience below.

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