ACCC to disrupt Facebook romance scammers

A new study says online scam victims aren't always seen as legitimate victims of crime by police. (AAP) Source: AAP

The ACCC wants social networking sites to help identify perpetrators of romance scams, which remain the top way Australians lose money to scammers.

The consumer watchdog wants Facebook and other networking sites to help break up fake romances as scammers increasingly use social media to target their victims.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants the social media sites to help identify romance scammers, who cost Australians $27.9 million last year.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said contact from romance scammers now often happened through social media, mainly Facebook.

"There's still a lot from dating sites, but we're seeing almost as many complaints coming from people who first met the scammer on Facebook, which is worrying," Ms Rickard told AAP.

About 30 per cent of victims met the scammer through social networking sites, ACCC data for 2014 shows.

Ms Rickard said the scammers often stalked their victims on social media, getting a sense of someone's likes, dislikes and social values, so it felt as though there was an instant connection when they did make contact online.

The ACCC has been running a scam disruption project for the past year - trying to stop potential victims from sending money to scammers, using financial intelligence to identify Australians sending funds to suspect countries and advising them that they may have been targeted by a scam.

It is also updating best practice guidelines for the dating and romance industry, which cover providing warnings to consumers, the complaint handling process, and working behind the scenes to identify scammers and keep them off the sites.

Ms Rickard said the ACCC now wanted to extend the work it had done with the dating industry to social media platforms.

"We're starting work looking at what we expect social media platforms to be doing to identify scammers and keep them off, and provide assistance to consumers," she said.

"There's a lot of work we're trying to do with intermediaries to stop money reaching scammers and to stop scammers reaching victims in the first place."

Source AAP

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