31 October 2016

The High Price of Love

Author :

We have all grown up with the nagging voice of our mothers telling us to not get in cars with strangers, or eat unwrapped candy from the overly enthusiastic middle aged man dressed up as a pirate on Halloween. 

And most of us have fallen into the trap of a little innocent online flirting, with a virtual stranger. It's easy to do when you're enjoying the late night banter over a glass or 2 of your favourite wine, or discreetly checking when they were last online to make sure they're still alive.

After weeks of getting a good thing going, and only thinking it’s a little strange when they say they can’t talk on the phone or their skype is broken, they then somewhat discreetly ask a favour from you.

Your newly acquired flame has found themselves in quite the pickle and needs money for an urgent medical procedure, or they need to fix the windows on the house they plan to share with you one day but all their funds are tied up in the mortgage.

I know what you’re thinking. It seems a little strange but for many, a little cash to help your new loved one get closer to you, then shoot why not?

As the money requests become more frequent and higher in value, the alarm bells start to ring. Are you victim to a scammer?  Or is this just your new lover having a tough time? 

Unfortunately you may very well have been ripped off; as lonely hearts scams topped the list as the most lucrative scams for 2014, costing Australian's a whopping $27.9million.

Also ladies don’t worry it’s not just you, in fact just as many men fall victim losing $14,784 on average, with women losing $8777 per annum stated in the 2014 annual ACCC report.

The number of victims have been on the increase over the last 2 years as the online dating industry has continued to boomed giving fraudsters a large variety of platforms to carefully select their victims.

According to the dating site Reviews of Australia, the online dating world began to boom in the early 2000’s with around 100,000 profiles of singles on the net. Currently there are around 2.2 million singles online every month looking for some kind of relationship. 

Subsequently scammers have advanced their techniques and have greater access to growing technologies.

The good news is, with each reported scams, we're slowly adapting ways to prevent people browsing the online market becoming victims.

The ACCC report of 2014 mentions the creation of online groups rallying together to track, trick and bait scammers so they're named and shamed for all to see. The NSW Police Force urges victims to report their scammers. It can not only lead to tracking them down but prevent it from happening to other victims. 

The NSW Police Force recommends the below handy tips to avoid this happening to you.

Keep your personal details personal:
Never share personal information or photos with someone you don’t know and trust – especially photos or webcam calls of a private nature. There have been reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.
Watch out: If an online admirer asks to communicate with you outside the dating website, such as through a private email address or over the phone, watch out – they could be trying to avoid detection. If you are considering meeting in person, choose a public place and let family or friends know where you are at all times.
Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided. Scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.
Think twice:
Never send money to someone you’ve met online, especially via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer – it’s rare to recover money sent this way.
If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
If you have an inkling you’re in a tricky situation with a scammer you can always report it. 

You can report scams to the ACCC via the ‘report a scam’ page on SCAMwatch (www.scamwatch.gov.au) or by calling 1300 795 995.

If you met the scammer through a dating service or social media, you should also inform the dating service/social channel of your experience so that they can try and stop the scammer hurting others. 

With all this said, don’t live under a rock in fear. After all, the online world is just as real as meeting someone at a bar or through friends these days.

Hopefully by continuing the conversation and growing awareness, we can all become smart online daters. 

Sarah Orrell is a Conference Coordinator at Akolade. She joined the team in July 2016 and already thinks she runs the place. Sarah comes from an events background and also recently finished a Bachelor of Business in Events Management.

She once had dreams of becoming a marine biologist but when she discovered maths and science were involved she decided to dominate the events industry instead. After completing her first blog she also thinks she might become a writer too.

Sarah’s greatest achievements to dates with Akolade is keeping the office plants alive.

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