On­line ‘love’ can cost you

The Weekend Post - - News - SO­PHIE ELSWORTH

SEARCH­ING for true love is leav­ing many hope­less ro­man­tics not only bro­ken-hearted but fi­nan­cially dis­traught.

The des­per­ate and date­less are be­ing warned to be care­ful of on­line scam­mers ahead of Valen­tine’s Day and ig­nore odd Face­book re­quests or in­ter­ac­tions on dat­ing web­sites that seem sus­pi­cious.

One of the na­tion’s big­gest banks, ANZ, set up a ded­i­cated ro­mance scams unit in mid 2017 to tackle fraud­sters and they’ve al­ready been in­un­dated with hun­dreds of in­quiries.

This in­cludes in­ves­ti­gat­ing more than 700 in­ci­dents that have cost un­sus­pect­ing vic­tims a whop­ping $3.7 mil­lion.

ANZ’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion Ca­tri­ona Noble said scam vic­tims were of­ten left un­able to re­cover any money sent to who they be­lieved was their true lover.

“What might be an in­no­cent friend re­quest on Face­book or an in­ter­ac­tion on a dat­ing site ... if you are mak­ing con­nec­tions with peo­ple on­line that is dif­fer­ent to be­ing in­tro­duced to some­one by a com­mon friend or col­league,’’ she said.

“The ro­mance scams re­ally prey on peo­ple’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and scam­mers are hav­ing a lot of suc­cess there.”

Aus­tralians aged 55 and over are more likely to be scammed and ANZ data found some scams have been for amounts of more than $600,000.

Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion fig­ures show in 2017 there were more than 3740 ro­mance and dat­ing scams re­ported and about $20.3 mil­lion lost.

Re­tiree Kevin Har­ri­son, 65, was a vic­tim of an on­line scam ro­mance and lost $170,000 af­ter con­nect­ing with a wo­man named “Rose” from Ghana on on­line dat­ing site OkCupid.

He never met the wo­man in per­son and de­spite their on­line re­la­tion­ship end­ing three years ago she con­tin­ues to con­tact him.

His one mes­sage is: “Un­der no cir­cum­stances do you send them money.’’

The pen­sioner racked up more than $30,000 on credit card debt dur­ing the re­la­tion­ship and at times sent her up to $14,000 in one hit.

ANZ data shows it’s of­ten men who are more likely to be the tar­get of ro­mance scams but women who lose more money ($2.24 mil­lion un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.)

ACCC’s deputy chair Delia Rickard warns peo­ple not to let love bite and send money to some­one you’ve never met.

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