Dating scammers look forward to Valentine's Day gifts

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Spare a thought for all those poor, lonely sheep farmers in Australia, who are apparently falling for online dating scams like never before.

And it's likely to get even worse over the next week because of Valentines' Day, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Acting chairman Peter Kell said the 14th of February was a prime time for scammers to take advantage of lonely hearts.

"Scammers target victims by creating fake profiles on internet dating sites, chat rooms or introductory services and they go to great lengths to establish a trusting relationship with victims," he said.

"These scammers then prey on the victim's emotional vulnerability by representing that they wish to travel to Australia or are in urgent need of money and ask for help to pay for airfares, passport, family hospital bills and other costs."

In total, there were 550 complaints about online dating scams in 2009, up from 430 in 2008.

One woman ran right through her savings and even took out an extra loan to pay for a series of urgent medical treatments. After sending AUS$95,000 over six months, the friend suddenly disappeared; she lost her house.

Valentine's Day is a bonanza time for spammers, too, warns Jeff Green of security firm McAfee.

"Subjects such as 'Deeply in love with you,' 'I Knew I Loved You,' and 'I Love Being In Love With You,' followed by a short URL in the body are typical of these attempts, which point to sites that offer a little Valentine’s malware," he says.

"By all means send love notes to your honey before and on Valentine’s Day, but don’t fall for these transparent, annual attempts that lead only to tears."