As per the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission [ACCC], scammers are now making use of new online platforms for taking advantage of their unsuspecting victims. Dating and romance scams made up around one-fifth of losses among all the scams reported to Scamwatch in 2019.
As per the ACCC, Australians reported nearly 4,000 dating and romance scams in 2019.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard is of the opinion that, “Romance scams are particularly devastating because not only are there financial losses, but there is also an emotional toll for the victim, which can have lasting psychological impacts on people.”
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs also lists online romance scams among the common Australia visa scams.
Typically, in visa scams involving online romance, Australians are convinced into transferring money to individuals that they have met online.
In one such victim story, an Australian met a person online that later asked him to invite her to Australia, paying for the expenses. Later, being wrongfully informed that all her valuables were seized by the custom officials, the Australian was then coerced into sending more money for bribing the officials.
Eventually, the woman asked him to come to her country and assist her in leaving the country and moving to Australia with him. A call to the Australian Embassy in that woman’s country brought to light an online romance scam. Many have been similarly duped. There have been reported incidents of the person being abducted on arrival and held for ransom.
As per the Australian Cyber Security Centre [ACSC], “Scammers often approach their victims on legitimate dating websites before attempting to move the ‘relationship’ away from the safeguards that these sites put in place, for example, by communicating through other methods such as email, where they can more easily manipulate victims.”
The ACCC suggests conducting an image search online – through TinEye or Google – to help establish whether the person that you have met online is indeed who they say they are. Scammers usually use fake photos that they find online.
Australia has reported over 2,700 visa scams in the last 5 years. Online romance scams continue to be among the common Australian visa scams that the Department of Home Affairs advises to watch out for.
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