Online dating and romance scams are among the leading causes of a loss of $85m last year for Australians, according to a new report by The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACCC has just released its Targeting Scams Report for 2015, reporting a 15% year-on-year increase in the number of complaints received by its Scamwatch, and a significant rise in the amount of money reported lost.
In 2014, the ACCC received 91,600 scam complaints and almost $82m reported lost, but during last year, it recorded 105,200 scam complaints and a loss of $85m.
It has now identified dating and romance scams, alongside investment schemes, as the top two causes of this huge loss, noting that although they make up just 3.7% of reports, they account for over 56% of total losses.
And despite seeing a slight decrease in reports of dating and romance scams in 2015, the ACCC’s Scamwatch still recorded just under $23m in reported losses from 2,620 complaints.
Breaking this down further, $5.6m was lost to victims over 55 from just 464 complaints, with reports to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) for romance scams totalling $15m.
The ACCC noted that when added to the $17m in losses caused by the disruption works, the total losses for relationship scams actually hit over $54m.
In terms of delivery method, the report found that two in five (40.9%) victims were contacted by scammers via telephone, and a further 28% being contacted through email.
Advising Australians on how they can avoid online scams, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said: “Dating and romance scams take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media.
“Scammers spend months and even years establishing a relationship with their victims before making up a reason they need to ‘borrow’ money, such as medical emergencies or travel expenses.
She added: “Never send money to someone you have met online — chances are you will be left with a broken heart and an empty bank account.
“Cease contact with anyone that asks for money, no matter how you feel about them.”
For a full breakdown of the findings, see the infographic below or download the full report here.