Finding love online might sound romantic but many Internet scams especially dating sites in the past year have cost Australians $93 million.
Many heartbroken lovers reported "meeting" a United Nations worker, a US soldier or a Persian Gulf engineer. These are fake identities which left more than 2,440 people with a broken heart and bank account. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), online dating scams have quickly become a financial disaster costing millions of dollars.
The ACCC received complaints from more than 84,000 Australians who lost a total of $93 million to online dating sites. Scammers collected an advance fee from innocent victims as payment for using a service. Australians also lost money to sites offering various shopping promos and lottery tickets. Scammers also hacked accounts to steal money based on the same ACCC report. Those who reported to have lost money to online scams were Australians between the ages of 33 and 45.
About 30 per cent of victims from online dating sites lost more than $100,000 after scammers convinced them of sending donations to help build a new orphanage, start a new business venture, travel with their "online partner" or medical treatments for a sick loved one. The victims lost an average of $21,000 based on data gathered by ACCC.
The number of victims from online dating scams may be small compared to other types of scams but it easily become second highest in terms of financial loss. Dating scams generated $23 million while investment scams cost $30 million for asking victims to pay first before enjoying the benefits of a certain service.
In 2010, Australian victims lost $8 million to scams. Scammers would create fake relationships in a legitimate dating website to establish credibility. They would continue to maintain their relationships by until unsuspecting victims would trust them. Scammers would send victims flowers, love letters and gifts to let them believe in their online lovers. The scammers usually originated from eastern Europe or Nigeria according to Delia Rickard, ACCC chairwoman.
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