The Department of Commerce has sent out an alert warning West Australians to be wary of online dating websites after it found victims have been defrauded of around $4.5 million.
The WA Police Major Fraud Squad dubbed “Operation Sunbird” uncovered cases with substantial sums of money being transferred from vulnerable individuals to fraudsters in African countries posing as individuals seeking love or offering investment opportunities.
Ann Driscoll, the Commissioner for Consumer Protection stated:
“Relationship fraud victims find it very difficult to accept that the person they have been conversing with… is a con artists…This is a sophisticated system of fraud and those targeted are victims of crime.”
The Commissioner further states that any person requesting money on an online dating or social networking site will likely be a fraud.
In the Department of Commerce’s top tips to avoid relationship fraud it advises to be wary of
– Overseas- based singles wanting to know your financial status
– Taking your interaction from an online dating site over to email or instant messaging
– Random messages from strangers requesting romance
– Remember that just because someone shares personal photos with you does not mean that the pictures are of them
– Don’t be fooled by telephone conversations, the person you speak with are not always who they purport to be
– Be concerned if a person refuses to chat real time using web cam and remember that Skype is not scam-proof
– Alarm bells should ring if someone you have not met face-to-face requests money from you.
To find out more or to get advice relating to scams or fraud visit http://www.scamnet.wa.gov.au
If you suspect you have been scammed, we suggest you contact:
- the West Australian Police on 131444.
- the Department of Commerce on 1300 13 62 37.
- Lifeline on 131114.
To find out more, please check media release.
Remember, IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS!