MBIE’s Consumer Protection is advising those looking for love online to be watchful for scams this Valentine’s Day, both on dating apps and online.
Consumer Protection manager Mark Hollingsworth says, “Online scams are prevalent today and are not always obvious to spot. Valentine’s Day could be yet another hook for those scammers targeting vulnerable people in our communities.”
“Scammers use tactics like creating realistic online profiles, using fake photos and sharing information that appears genuine. They will aim to gain trust, and then seek opportunities to ask for financial support.
“Scams are increasingly sophisticated, and romance scams can build over several months before you’re asked for personal details or directly for money.
“It’s often those that are above 45 years old, financially sound and looking for a relationship, that are most likely to be targeted, so having vigilance when online dating is key, especially if engaging with a person overseas,” says Mr Hollingsworth.
“You can check online photos by using Google to ‘search by image’ in case a person has multiple profiles or if they’ve taken someone else images.”
Consumers need to remember to be wary of anyone who asks for money, whether it is within days, weeks or months of meeting a person online.
“Once trust and friendship is created, scammers may seek an opportunity to ask for assistance for flights to come to see you or unexpected medical bills. If this happens, stop, think and remember not to transfer money through a direct deposit, money order or international transfer.
“Be careful about the personal information you give away, and avoid sharing material that could be used out of your favour if thing go awry.
“In 2017, Netsafe reported that $1.4 million was lost to romance scams. This is likely to be a small percentage of total loses as many either feel ashamed about being scammed, or aren’t aware they have been scammed,” says Mr Hollingsworth.
For more information on staying safe from scams or to report one, visit Consumer Protection’s Scamwatch page. If you think a friend or a family member is being scammed, use the Consumer Protection checklist to work through it together.