Australians have been conned out of AUD $3.55 million by online dating fraudsters this year alone, The Daily Telegraph (AU) reports.
An example of an online dating scam was published in the Telegraph, describing how 64 year old, Jan Marshall, met “Eamon Donegal Dubhlainn” online and immediately fell in love.
Ms Marshall explained that she was contacted on Plenty of Fish by a man who claimed to be a British engineer based in the US.
They would phone and email, and within four weeks they were already engaged to marry.
Ms Marshall explained: “He told me I was special and what we had together was unique — he convinced me he was falling for me, and I fell in love with him. After four weeks I had agreed to marry him, that’s how strong it was.
“The process is called love bombing — they deliberately play with your emotions and make you fall in love, and once that happens you are in the honeymoon period and you release a hormone Oxytocin which decreases anxiety and increases trust.
“Once you’re in that state they manipulate you and start asking you for money.”
Mr “Dubhlainn” asked for a loan and many other requests from Ms Marshall, and before she knew it she had paid $260,000 in savings, debt and superannuation.
She was also taxed at the highest rate by the ATO, which put her a further $76,000 into debt.
She tried to get information out of Plenty of Fish but had no luck, as it would be breach of client privacy.
However, Western Union confirmed that money Ms Marshall thought she sent to Dubai actually went to Nigeria – meaning she was a victim of a Nigerian scamming ring.
Ms Marshall said: “Australians are losing millions and it seems like nothing is being done. For us victims it feels like nobody even recognises us — there’s no support and even if you have tons of information [about the scammer] nothing happens, which is very, very frustrating.
In 2015, she started a support group for other scamming victims and their friends and family. She has also written a book about her experience titled Romance Scam Survivor: the whole sordid story.
The Telegraph reported that the average victim of online dating fraud lost $8833, and that just over half of those scammed were females.
Read more here.