Online ‘love’ can cost you
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.