More Australians Are Getting Sucked In By Online Dating Scams Than Ever Before

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$340 million from over 200,000 incidents of online and phone scams were recorded in 2017 - that's a rise of $40 million since last year, the most ever reported.

While investment scams account for $64 million of that total figure, the biggest rise is seen in romance and dating scams.

The ACCC's Targeting scams report details reports submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Around 30 per cent of dating and romance scam victims who reported to Scamwatch were contacted via social media sites, in particular Facebook.

Dating and romance scammers trick their victims into falling in love with them and then use their victim's trust to deceitfully take their money. The advice? If someone you've met through social media but you've never met in person asks you for money, your alarm bells should be ringing. Don't ever wire transfer or send money to someone you don't know because you won't see it again.

"It's very worrying that Australians are losing such extraordinary amounts to scammers. Based on just the reports provided to the ACCC, victims are losing an average of $6500. In some cases people have lost more than $1 million," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. "Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot."

Rickard says scammers use social media to contact and deceive their victims, and in the past few years, scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and online.

Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of these threat-based impersonation scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

"These scams can be very frightening. For example, scammers will impersonate the Australian Taxation Office and threaten people with immediate arrest unless they pay an outstanding tax bill. They may pretend to be from Telstra to try to hack into your computer or from Centrelink promising extra payments in return for a 'fee'," Rickard said.

Rickard says scammers scare us - or butter us up with promises of cash - because they know it clouds our judgement.

"People get so worried about being arrested they don't question if the person threatening them is genuine."

So what can you do if you're being threatened?

Rickard says to take a deep breath, and ask yourself if the call makes sense.

"The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest; Telstra will never need to access your computer to 'fix' a problem; and Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you. Finally, none of these organisations will ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards," Rickard said.

"If something doesn’t feel right, hang up the phone or hit delete. If the person said they were, for example, from Telstra or the ATO, find the phone number for that organisation online or in the phone book, call them and let them know about the call you received. They'll let you know if it’s genuine or a scam."

Head to ScamWatch to report any scams.

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