Sydney - International fraudsters are increasingly targeting those seeking love, taking over 25 million Australian dollars (23.5 million US dollars) from Australian victims last year, figures released Monday showed.
Dating and romance-related fraud rose eight per cent in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its annual report on scams and frauds. The average loss by the lovelorn to scammers promising love was 19,000 US dollars, more than three times higher than other types of scams.
The ACCC said 43 per cent of people who reported being approached by a fake admirer said they lost money. Dating and romance scams also caused emotional harm to victims as the fraudsters invested time and effort getting to know their victims, said ACCC deputy chairman Delia Rickard.
"They're very good at tapping into people's emotions," Rickard said. "They will spend weeks, months, even years building a trust relationship and then start asking for money."
One woman spent years talking on the internet to a man she believed was an American serviceman in Afghanistan. When he claimed his daughter needed money for an urgent operation she sent tens of thousands of US dollars before she became suspicious and stopped. She never heard from him again.
The ACCC said almost 4,000 scammers were identified as people based overseas, but in most cases the location of the fraudster could not be traced.
More than 90,000 Australians reported scams to the ACCC last year, up by 7,000 from the previous year.