Over 2,600 Australians victimised by online romance scams

Canberra, Feb 12 (IANS) Australia’s consumer watchdog on Friday revealed that a total of 2,620 people fell victim to online romance scams in 2015.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released figures showing Australians were collectively swindled out of $16 million by scammers posing as potential lovers last year, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, ACCC’s deputy chair Delia Rickard believes that number may only represent one-tenth of Australia’s true financial losses to the morally-corrupt trade, with most victims too embarrassed to report – or admit – they were set-up by a con artist.

According to the data, women (43.5 percent) were more likely to be caught up in the romantic scams than men (39 percent), while 17 percent of those surveyed did not disclose their gender.

The majority of victims were middle aged, between 45 to 55 years old.

The ACCC has its own taskforce designed to protect those the organisation classes “potential victims” of romantic scams. The taskforce, known as the Scam Disruption Project, has sent 6,000 warning letters to these repeat victims, telling them to reconsider sending money to scamming hubs like Nigeria.

Rickard said the scammers create an intricate and compelling backstory to tug at their victims before requesting money.

One-third of Australia’s reported romance scams in 2015 occurred over social media, in particular, Facebook.

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