Beware Losing Your Heart, And Money, To Scammers
It can happen to any of us. Looking for love or friendship through the Internet whether on dating sites or through discussion groups we need to be wary of the scammers, those cruel crooks who seek to rip us off by getting us to hand over money or steal our identity to get access to our accounts.
The scammers are very skilled at fishing for their targets, dangling the prospect of romance or friendship for people who they see as vulnerable. The scammers are patient. They can keep the fishing game going for months, even years, before they strike.
Once they think they have your heart, they target your generosity with a plea for a small loan to help with a sick relative, or help pay for the plane ticket so they can fly to meet you. They might even pay back the first small loan to win your trust.
But they are just after more of your money. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reports $45 million has been lost to scams so far in 2015 – $15 million in romance scams – mostly from people aged over 45 looking for companionship.
“Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam and all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said. The ACCC reports the latest scams on its scamwatch.gov.au website.
Stacks Law Firm lawyer Anneka Frayne warns it can be very difficult to get your money back, especially if you have sent it overseas.
“They will drag you in over months of increasingly intimate talk until you feel they are part of your life – but there is always some reason they can’t meet up with you just yet, if only you could help pay a medical bill, a plane fare.
“It’s fraud and it is illegal. The scammers lie, manipulate and cheat to extort you. For many it’s not just losing money, but your heart and confidence can be left shattered.
“Before you get too involved, check them out. Search the web for facial identity. Type in their vows of love – they might be using the same lines on other people. The best rule is the first time they ask for money cut them off, no matter how convincing they might sound. And if you’re really not sure, seek some professional advice.
“Don’t send intimate photos or personal details – once you refuse money they might try and use it for blackmail,” Ms Frayne said.