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Online daters warned about Valentine’s Day scammers

It’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year.

However, authorities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S are all warning the public about potential Valentine’s Day scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received more than 4100 reports of dating scams last year with 25 percent of the complaints costing victims $25 million.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said, “reports of dating and romance scams increased by more than a third in 2016 and, sadly, the amount of money reported lost has also increased by about $3 million compared to 2015”.

With V-Day happening today, the ACCC is warning people to be extra careful looking for romance online. Social media –in particular, Facebook and Tinder- are the top way for scammers to find targets.

Unsurprisingly, dating apps like Tinder see a massive spike this time every year as lonely hearts furiously swipe away their Valentine’s Day blues.

Rickard also noted that scammers were coming up with increasingly believable profiles, but that there are some telltale signs to watch out for.

These include inconsistencies in the scammers’ stories, the expression of strong feelings too quickly (“love at first type”) and, of course, asking for money.

According to the ACCC’s Dating and Romance page (yes, that exists), there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself:

• Never give out financial details or send money to someone you’ve met online.

• Run a Google image search to check the authenticity of people’s photos.

• If you use a dating website, be wary when you are moved onto private messaging – it could be a way to avoid detection

• Don’t send intimate pics. The ACCC has received reports of such pics be used to blackmail victims.

• Finally, if you think you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and report it to Scamwatch.

Even if you don’t get scammed this Valentine’s Day, don’t expect to get away cheaply.

A study by finder.com.au found that Aussies are willing to fork out big bucks today. According to the study, couples married in the last five years will spend $253 million, with an average of $386 spent per man and $267 per woman.

Google Trends can also tell us interesting things about how Aussies are approaching V-Day.

For example, the fifth most popular search query right now is apparently “when is valentine’s day 2017”. Uh, you are a little late pal.

A related search query that has just spiked 1,200% is “Michael Bolton”, due to his Netflix Valentine’s Day Special.

Under the “gifts” search query the top related queries are “last minute valentines gifts for him” and “cheap valentines gifts for her”. This suggests that ladies have largely forgotten about their men, who are cheapskates anyway. The joy of data!

Searches for DIY gifts are also trending, so it looks there are still plenty of folks trying to spend less today.

If you think you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and report it to Scamwatch.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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