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Scammers targeting lonely hearts online

Online daters are being swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Photo: Getty
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Australians looking for love online are being scammed millions of dollars in their quest for happily ever after.

Dating and romance scams cost Australians more than $24 million last year, ScamWatch data released on Monday reveals.

“These romance scammers deal in the art of lies and deception, cruelly misleading honest people searching for love and companionship,” Victoria’s Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said.

In one case, a 69-year-old Victorian man lost $377,000 after joining a dating agency and scammers organised for him to meet a woman they claimed wanted to marry him.

The scammers, believed to be from interstate, made multiple trips to Victoria where the victim handed over large wads of cash for the wedding and to fund his “fiancee’s” legal battle with an overseas government to access land and property owned by her dead ex-husband.

Lonely hearts are urged to be suspicious of anyone who avoids meeting in person or being seen via video chat, who asks a lot of questions but is vague about themselves and makes over-the-top expressions of love.

Experts advise money or bank details should also never be shared with someone you haven’t met in person and Google’s reverse image search function can check if someone’s profile photo appears elsewhere online.