Vulnerable Australians are being urged to protect themselves from dating and romance scams, ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Australians lost $20.2 million in dating and romance scams in 2017, with most scammers targeting people on social media, email or websites.
Queenslanders lost more than $3 million from dating and romance scams last year.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said victims tended to suffer both financially and emotionally.
“Scammers will often put a lot of effort into the scam and they may correspond with a victim for months or years to gain their trust,” she said.
“Scammers have no conscience and will target people looking for love around Valentine’s Day knowing that people may be particularly vulnerable during this time.
“It doesn’t matter how genuine or honest the person you are corresponding with online sounds, or how emotionally invested you become, you should never send money to a person you haven’t met in person.”
Common scenarios scammers use to entice money out of victims include medical emergencies, veterinary treatments, legal problems or investment opportunities.
People are asked to be wary of anyone who asks for money online, which can happen within days, weeks or months, and to never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer.
Another tip includes doing a reverse image search of a person’s profile photo, via Google images, to find out if the image was taken from someone else or belonged to several people with different names.
People should also be careful about the amount of personal information shared online, and avoid sharing compromising material such as intimate photos, which could be used in blackmail.
Tell family and friends about a new relationship, as they can often identify if a scenario does not seem genuine.
Let family and friends know where you are going, if you decide to meet someone in person, and contact your financial institution immediately if you believe you have been scammed.
Police are warning of a new phone scam which involves hackers pretending to be Telstra employees.
Queensland Police are telling residents to “just hang up” if they receive a call from someone claiming to be from Telstra stating there are errors on their computers or appealing for help to catch hackers.
A statement says the “criminals are very convincing”.
“They will request you download a remote access software program like ‘Team Viewer’ onto your computer,” police said.
Once they obtain access to your computer, they will deposit money into your account and request you purchase iTunes cards or ask you to transfer the money to them using a wire transfer facility such as Money Gram or Western Union.”
Police said once the scammers gain remote access, the money being transferred might appear to be the scammers’s but it’s actually the victim’s.
“Once you have transferred the money or given over the iTunes reference numbers, your money is gone with little to no chance of recovering it,” police said.
“There are never any circumstances where a legitimate business or government department will ask for payment using an iTunes gift card or for your help to catch hackers. Quite simply, it is a scam.”