It’s easy to judge the people who fall victim to online dating scams. “How could they be so stupid?”
The sad reality of online dating is that it’s easy to be sucked into scams because victims have no idea they are being scammed. They are simply falling in love with a lovely man or woman they have met online. To them the relationship is real.
They don’t have to feel lonely anymore.
The devastation felt when you discover you have been the victim of an online dating scam can stay with you forever. It’s not just the financial effects which can be devastating, but the emotional scars, which can be severe.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning women to be careful not to fall victim this Valentine’s Day, explaining that it is a significant day for online scammers who will use endearing gestures to suck you in further.
The warning: If you are on the receiving end of a grand gesture from someone you have never met this Valentine’s Day, remain guarded. A request for money may not be far off and that’s when you really need to step back and figure out exactly what is going on. No matter how strongly you feel for the person you’re dating online.
In 2015 Australians lost $23 million to online dating scams leading the ACCC to issue a warning ahead of Valentine’s Day. They revealed 2620 victims lost $22.7 million to so-called romantic scams and estimate that to be only one-tenth of the actual figure with many victims too embarrassed to make an official complaint.
Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the ACCC, says online dating scammers know what they are doing. “Scammers invest considerable time and effort deceiving you into a fake romance, a fraudulent business partnership or a complex investment scheme. Their ultimate aim is to build your trust so they can steal your personal details and your money.”
Victims are losing their savings, their super, their homes and in some cases are being left paying off large debts.
Melbourne woman Jan Marshall, 62, lost $260,000 to an online dating scam in 2012. Jan says she fell in love with a British engineer working in Dubai, not realising he was a professional scammer intent on making money by pulling at her heart strings.
“These people have the skills to manipulate and make you fall in love. I was in shock, I couldn’t understand how this had happened to me,” she told Fairfax.
Her story has become all too familiar.