The Victorian Government is urging Victorians to accept Facebook friend requests wisely – and be alert to dating and romance scammers when using social media.
Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz is also urging Victorians, who lost $1.8 million in 2016 to online scams, to tread carefully when forming relationships with people they don’t know on social media.
In total, Australians lost more than $9.5 million to social media scams in 2016, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Targeting Scams annual report has revealed.
Announced as part of the 2017 National Consumer Fraud Week, running from 15-19 May 2017, the ACCC’s report revealed losses from social media scams increased almost threefold in 2016, with dating and romance, and fake trader scams, the most common.
These figures make 2017’s Fraud Week theme – Scams through social media – very timely.
Dating and romance scams have become more prevalent in the social media age, meaning people need to be more vigilant than ever when forming relationships online.
To help avoid a romance scam:
- don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know, especially if they have limited profile content, bios that read like a dating profile, and have spelling and grammar errors
- never send money to someone you haven’t met in person
- be cautious when sharing personal information such as photos and videos, as scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
Fake trader scams have become increasingly common through social media, luring shoppers by offering high-end goods from well-known brands at greatly discounted prices. Victims are directed to fake shopping websites where they pay for goods that either don’t arrive, are fake, or of poor quality.
These too can be avoided with the help of some easy tips:
- if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is, so be wary of offers of recognised brands at extremely low prices
- check reviews before buying online to be sure the seller has a good reputation
- check the website URL to see if the address looks credible, as these may be fake versions of legitimate traders’ websites.
Consumer Affairs Victoria regularly publishes warnings about these types of social media scams, providing important resources to improve awareness and detection of scammers.
Consumers have access to a wide range of resources and information to become more scam savvy through the Consumer Affairs Victoria website at www.consumer.vic.gov.au.
National Consumer Fraud Week is an initiative of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce, of which Consumer Affairs Victoria is a proud member. The taskforce encourages consumers to learn how to identify a scam and avoid being scammed.
“Social media is part of everyday life for most Victorians and so we’re seeing an increase in these types of scams. They cause both financial and emotional distress – that’s why it’s so important for people to be smart when they’re online,” Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz said.
“The best defence against these type of scams is knowing they are out there and being wary of anything that sounds too good to be true.
“National Consumer Fraud Week is a great way to learn how to identify and avoid potential scams on social media, with Consumer Affairs Victoria providing great resources to help Victorians become more scam savvy.”