Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Canberra victims big losers as scam artists hit town

Jacqueline Williams
March 23, 2012

ACT victims of scammers reported a loss of more than $2.6 million last year, with dozens of Canberrans duped of more than $10,000 each.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission data on scam activity in the capital, released to TheCanberra Times yesterday, shows it received 4319 reports of scams from consumers and small businesses last year, with 455 people reporting losses. Thirty-eight people reported losses of more than $10,000.

The report also provides an overview of the way scammers work. About 40 per cent of dating and romance scam victims lost their money, typically through fake dating websites. Victims lost money to online auction and shopping scams at a similar rate.

Just over 30 per cent of those targeted by cold calls from real estate and investment scammers overseas lost money.

While only 114 people lost money to the classic Nigerian-style scam, also known as advance-fee fraud, the scammers swindled 12 people of more than $10,000 each. Those deceived by the scam lost a total of more than $1 million.

The Nigerian-style scam was the most reported type, followed by computer hacking then lottery and sweepstake frauds.

Surprisingly, bogus psychics tried to scam seven Canberrans of money. Three of those people lost a combined $267 to the scammers.

Australians were warned earlier this week to be more vigilant after the ACCC revealed it received more than 83,000 reports of scams nationally last year, almost double the number lodged in 2010.

The consumer watchdog also reported that more than $85 million was lost to scams – up 35 per cent from the previous year. It is believed a large proportion of scams are not reported.

ACT Commissioner for Fair Trading Brett Phillips urged Canberrans yesterday during National Consumer Fraud Week to hang up the phone on scammers following a surge in reports of phone scams last year.

He said more than 50 per cent of scams reported to the ACCC last year were perpetrated by phone, bucking the online scamming trend seen in recent years.

He also said scammers now targeted consumers in a myriad of ways, from phone calls, SMS, mobile applications, house visits, letters, emails and faxes to blog posts, online chats and dating services.

”It is more important than ever to stay alert to scam approaches,” Mr Phillips said. ”Scammers will use any of these means to target victims.

”The majority of telephone scams are from people overseas.”

Mr Phillips said overseas scammers were difficult to catch. He said once traced, the scammers could easily ”pack-up, get a different computer and move elsewhere”.

Advanced technology has brought with it an increase in more advanced scams. Mr Phillips said social networking compounded the problem.

”There’s been a lot of work done at a national level to try and stop money leaving the country in relation to scams,” Mr Phillips said.

”It’s important to realise that people in the scamming business are conmen.

”If they can find an easy way to try and rip consumers off for a few dollars that’s what they’ll do and have always done.”

Typical scams in Canberra were in the form of telephone calls from people claiming to be from Australian banks or government departments, Mr Phillips said.

Scammers have also called Canberrans claiming to be from Microsoft – fooling victims into believing something is wrong with their computer. Others have called collecting money for lifesaving societies.

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March 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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