Catfishing cons target vulnerable Valentines
Australians have been warned to beware of Valentine's Day scammers after it emerged a woman was conned out of $340,000 in a romance ruse.
The victim was befriended on Facebook Messenger and fell for a bogus investment scheme her fake admirer had presented as a genuine opportunity, the state's consumer watchdog revealed.
She contacted Consumer Affairs Victoria and police after eventually becoming suspicious and calling the company the love rat claimed to work for.
But she was told there was no staff member by the name of the man she had been talking to on social media.
Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz warned people to beware of scammers infiltrating online dating apps and social networking sites.
Australians last year reported being fleeced of almost $29 million in dating and romance scams.
But total losses are likely to be much higher, as many people do not come forward.
Scammers typically lure targets by creating a fake profile, and often express strong romantic feelings after only a few online conversations.
Many claim to be travelling or working overseas and cannot meet face-to-face. They then find an excuse to ask for money.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned fraudsters are increasingly turning to not only popular social media sites but apps such as Google Hangouts, Words with Friends and Scrabble to scam victims.
Ms Kairouz urged people to trust their instincts and be on high alert.
"With more people using social media than ever before, scammers are finding new ways to prey on vulnerable and honest Victorians looking for love," Ms Kairouz said.
"Romance scams can be difficult to identify, which is why it's important for Victorians to read up on the tactics these scammers may use."
People should not send money to someone they have not met in person, even if they had spoken to them or received gifts, and should look for contacts using fake or stolen profile pictures.
For more information visit: consumer.vic.gov.au/scamsavvy