NT Consumer Affairs is warning consumers to be vigilant when engaging with strangers online around Valentine’s Day.
Data from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s Scamwatch service shows that Australians lost almost $10 million to romance scams in February last year, the highest of any month.
Dating and romance scams are generally quite under-reported, but it is the category with the highest amount of financial loss: more than $24.3 million was lost to romance scammers in 2016.
Most romance scams are carried out via the internet, social networking sites as well as email.
Scammers will groom vulnerable people into trusting them, and will eventually ask for money due to a personal problem, some as a misfortune for which they need financial support.
Follow these tips to help you stay safe from online romance scams:
• Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online.
• Be wary of anyone who asks you for money. This could happen within days or years of meeting someone online. Never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer.
• Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. You can do this through Google images by clicking on the camera icon on the desktop version of the site’s search bar. This can help you identify if the image has been taken from someone else, or belongs to a few people with different names.
• Be careful about the amount of personal information you share. Avoid sharing compromising material, which scammers can use to blackmail you.
• If you agree to meet someone in person, make sure you let your family and friends know where you will be going.
For more information, go to our Romance Scams Fact Sheet.