ACCC warns about Valentine's Day scam

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Valentine’s Day
Roses are displayed in a flower shop in Vienna February 13, 2013. Reuters/Herwig Prammer

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned that Saint Valentine's Day may be a peak time for scammer to steal your money. The government body advised that scammers are expected to utilise social media platforms, such as Facebook, to contact potential victims.

ACCC said romance scams may steam more money than any other form of cheating. People aged 45 and above are likely to be targeted.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said romance scammers are getting progressively more manipulative. Those who are going online on Tuesday to look for love are advised to consider and be vigilant of the warning signs.

In a statement, Rickard said scammers create very believable profiles and even steal the identities of real, trusted people. "If you meet someone who seems too good to be true, do some research to see if they’re the real deal,” Rickard said.

Another warning sign is when a potential lover you meet on social media expresses his or her feelings too quickly. If that’s the case, there is a chance they want to steal your money, not your heart.

This Valentine's Day, the public is advised to not give financial or personal details such as their mother's maiden name, favourite pet or first school. The commission has advised to not send money to someone you have met online and check the authenticity of photos that your prospective online lover uses. This can be done by running a Google Image search which will reveal that their pictures have been borrowed.

Be careful when moving off a dating website. Scammers often use private emails or phone numbers to keep away from being detected.

Australians are also strongly advised not to share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting. Scammers can use these kinds of picture to blackmail and get money from their targets.

"The best tip for avoiding online dating scams is to follow your gut, if something doesn't seem right, it's probably not," Nick FitzGerald, senior research with a security provider, said. According to Sydney Morning Herald, if people lost interest right away after their online partner declined their request for money, it is likely that they are scammers.

In 2016, ACCC’s Scamwatch service has received call from 4,100 Australians reporting dating and romance dupes. Last year’s Valentine's Day scams have taken away more than $25 million, the largest sum for any type of scam in the Land Down Under.

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