Scammers have their biggest successes with Tasmanians when they prey on loneliness and lust.
Tasmanians on average tend to lose less money to scams than all other Australians except Victorians, according to a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Scammers reaped just $3.60 per capita from Tasmanians in 2019, compared to $3.50 for Victorians and a high of $9.50 in the Northern Territory.
The Tasmanians who fell for scams averaged a loss of $5191, which was lower than the average of every other state or territory except South Australia.
Tasmanians who fell for dating and romance scams tended to fare worse, with a median (mid-point) loss of $6276.
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The report showed Australians were meeting dating and romance scammers online on dating sites and non-dating sites.
The report said such a scammer would contact a victim, build a relationship and quickly profess their love.
"They suggest that the relationship continue on a private channel, shifting victims away from official websites or platforms," it said.
"In 2019, many scammers moved victims to WhatsApp.
"The scammer acts in an adoring way, shares personal information and sends small gifts."
They often posed as military personnel, foreign aid workers, doctors, nurses or other professionals working remotely and commonly posed as widowers with children.
"The scammer's stories all aim to gain sympathy and trust," the report said.
"The scammer soon asks for money, gifts or financial details to assist them in a personal emergency.
"If a victim hesitates, the scammer will use emotional blackmail by threatening self-harm or describing the dire situation they face without the victim's assistance."
The ACCC suggested people could protect themselves from dating and romance scams by:
- never sending money to someone they had not met in person;
- being alert to inconsistencies, such as whether the admirer's story had changed or their description of themselves differed from their photo;
- doing an image search with photos they sent and their profile pictures through Google.com or TinEye.com, as scammers often stole pictures from the internet to hide their true identities; and
- never sharing intimate photos or videos which could be used for blackmail.
The report said Australians lost $634 million to scams in 2019, an increase of 30 per cent compared to 2018.
The real number would have been significantly higher.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said about a third of people who lost money to scams in the last five years did not report it to any organisation.
Ms Rickard said scammers had moved to unexpected platforms to target victims.
"For example, in 2019, we saw dating and romance scammers targeting unsuspecting victims through gaming apps such as Words With Friends and investment scammers targeting Facebook and Instagram users with get rich quick cryptocurrency investment scams," she said.
The report covered scam reports to the ACCC's Scamwatch.gov.au website, other government agencies and the big four banks.
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