The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched guidelines to support efforts by dating and romance websites to combat scammers.
Dating and romance scams cost Australians more than $21 million in 2011, with more than 2100 individuals reporting scammers to the ACCC. The average loss for a victim reporting a scam to the ACCC was over $20 000.
“Dating and romance website operators have taken significant steps to tackle the problem of online scammers, but as the problem continues to grow the ACCC has taken the lead in organising a joint effort,” Deputy Chairman Dr Michael Schaper said.
“Online dating is an increasingly common way for people to meet each other. However, the growing number of scammers undermining public trust in legitimate businesses like dating and romance websites is an area of concern to the ACCC.”
“These scams often see a genuine user of a dating website being contacted by a potential admirer who is a scammer in disguise. After forming a relationship with the victim, the scammer plays on emotional triggers to get the victim to provide money, gifts or personal details,” Dr Schaper said.
The ACCC has headed a working group of dating and romance website operators to develop these voluntary best practice guidelines for the industry.
The actions detailed in the guideline fall into three areas:
- appropriate scam warnings and information
- internal vetting and checking procedures to detect scammers
- effective complaint handling procedures.
“The ACCC now seeks the cooperation of the industry in implementing these guidelines and reducing the harm caused by these scams.”