In our lead up to Valentine’s Day, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released an important warning about online dating scams. Love scams particularly target single older women, but fortunately there are ways to identity them.
According to the ACCC, Australians lost nearly $23 million to online dating scams last year alone. Victims not only suffered from the initial fall-out of sending money to a stranger overseas, but dealt with long-term financial consequences.
“We hear people who borrow against their house and end up losing their home, people who access their super, people who borrow from friends and family and never able to pay them back, leading to a huge breakdown in relations”, Delia Rickard from the ACCC explained.
Victims like 62-year-old Jan Marshall are often left “devastated, all alone, broke (and) usually in debt”. Ms Marshall fell in love with a scammer pretending to be a British engineer online. She sent him money from her own savings and super accounts, totalling around $260 000.
“I was not allowed to take money out of that fund. I have to pay tax on that money at the rate of 46.5 per cent, so I’ve ended up with an additional bill of over $75,000,” Ms Marshall told the Brisbane Times. “I can never pay that money”.
Very few victims ever recoup their financial losses. Most online dating scams target women aged 45 and over, so there are important signs to watch out for when it comes to identifying a loverat. Scamwatch advises the following warning signs:
– If you meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately.
– If you met on an dating site they will try and move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email.
– Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. For example, their profile picture looks different to their description of themselves, or they say they are university educated but their English is poor.
– After gaining your trust (often waiting weeks, months or even years) they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
– Their messages are often poorly written, vague and may even address you by the wrong name.
– If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they continue to ask you to send more.
– They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can’t travel to meet you and why they always need more money.
Scamwatch advises women to “always consider the possibility” that an online approach may be a scam. “Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent the prospective partner is”, Scamwatch adds.