Bargain, love hunters fleeced for millions of dollars

Western Australian scam victims have lost more than $20 million in the past year, with people looking for love online and high investment returns losing the most money.

All told, 1398 people reported being scammed in 2023 to WA Consumer Protection, with buyers and sellers on classified sites and online marketplaces accounting for the greatest number of victims.

More than 400 people reported losing $590,000 on buy and sell classified sites, with Facebook Marketplace responsible for 163 victims and $116,500 in losses.

Another common Marketplace scam involves fake rental property listings, where scammers pose as landlords to steal prospective tenants’ upfront bond and rent payments

Facebook scams were the top-reported scam to Consumer Protection, up 62 per cent on the 2022 figures.

Other examples of scams originating on the social media platform included fake prizes and giveaways, phoney job offers, bogus shopping adverts and hacked accounts promoting cryptocurrency schemes.

The greatest amount of money was lost by people seeking high investment returns or looking for love online.

Investment scams, primarily involving cryptocurrencies, were behind $12.1 million in losses, while dating and romance scams cost victims $3.7 million.

The total amount of money lost for the year was $21,995,489, up 36 per cent from 2022.

Commerce Minister Sue Ellery said social media was a great tool for staying connected but it allowed scammers to hide in plain sight.

She said consumers should pause and think before entering information online.

“Taking time to consider whether a sale or offer online is legitimate or sharing personal information, these decisions could save you from the financial and emotional toll that comes with being scammed,” she said on Tuesday.

People can protect themselves from scams by ensuring they only use secure forms of payment when using online marketplaces.

They should also treat too-good-to-be-true offers with scepticism and be suspicious of buyers or sellers who can’t meet in person.

Top 10 scams in WA:

* Investment scams: $12,129,934

* Dating and romance scams: $3,701,945

* Hacking: $1,300,073

* Phishing: $1,181,620

* Jobs and employment scams: $874,002

* Threats to life, arrest or other: $670,228

* Online shopping scams: $631,315

* Classified scams: $589,588

* Remote access scams: $284,260

* Health and medical products: $201,509

* Other scams: $431,016


Aaron Bunch
(Australian Associated Press)


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