Think with your head in matters of the heart this Valentine's Day
3 February 2017
In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning Queenslanders looking for love online to protect themselves from potential financial loss.
Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said dating and romance scams are now the second most reported scam in Queensland, with approximately $5 million being lost each year.
“Not only do these scams result in financial loss, they can be emotionally devastating for the victim,” Mr Bauer said.
“Scammers can spend weeks or months corresponding with their victims, making false promises, and crafting stories to tug at their victim’s heartstrings and ultimately, wallets.
“In some instances, the victim becomes so emotionally involved that they willingly offer money for causes, such as medical emergencies, veterinary treatments, legal problems or investment opportunities – whichever scenario the scammer thinks the victim is the most likely to provide money for.
“The best way to protect yourself is to never provide money to someone you haven’t met in person, no matter how strongly you feel, or how much you’d like to help.”
Some common scam characteristics include:
- The scammer may claim to be an Australian who is travelling, living or working overseas.
- Quite quickly after ‘meeting’, the scammer will shower you in compliments and loving words, and share personal information or stories to gain your trust.
- The scammer may ask for personal photos, videos, or information from you.
- The scammer may discuss skyping you or visiting you, but the plans will always fall through. For example, the web camera is always broken or their internet connection is poor.
The OFT recommends the following:
- Be careful with your social media privacy settings and what information you share on dating profiles. While anyone can be targeted by scammers online, it is often older people, or those who are newly single, divorced or widowed, who fall victim.
- If you are meeting someone in person who you have chatted to online, make sure you meet somewhere public and let family or friends know where you’re going. Be extra cautious if you are invited overseas to meet in person.
- Don’t keep your online relationship a secret. Often family and friends can help point out if a scenario doesn’t seem quite right.
- Don’t share compromising information with someone you haven’t met in person, for example, intimate photos.
- Do not agree to send money to someone you have never met in person.
- If you think you have been scammed and have provided your bank details, notify your financial institution immediately.
More information on avoiding scams and reporting a scam is available on the Scamwatch website www.scamwatch.gov.au.