Australia's consumer watchdog on Friday revealed that a total of 2,620 people fell victim to online romance scams in 2015.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released figures showing Australians were collectively swindled out of million by scammers posing as potential lovers last year, Xinhua news agency reported.However, ACCC's deputy chair Delia Rickard believes that number may only represent one-tenth of Australia's true financial losses to the morally-corrupt trade, with most victims too embarrassed to report - or admit - they were set-up by a con artist.
The ACCC has its own taskforce designed to protect those the organization classes "potential victims" of romantic scams.
The taskforce, known as the Scam Disruption Project, has sent 6,000 warning letters to these repeat victims, telling them to reconsider sending money to scamming hubs like Nigeria.
Money can't buy love, but Australians are being warned to watch out for scammers who are trying anyway on Valentine's Day.
More than 2600 Australians lost almost $23 million to romance scams in 2015, with $4.4 million lost just in February.
There is usually the promise that the fictitious character will one day join the victim in the victim's country.
The scam usually ends when the victim realizes they are being scammed or stops sending money.
Victims can be highly traumatized by this and are often very embarrassed and ashamed when they learn they have become a victim of a scam and that the romance was a farce.
In some cases, online dating services are themselves engaged in misrepresentation, displaying profiles which have been fabricated, which use personal information from users who have not agreed to be depicted on the site social accounts, classified sites and even forums to groom new victims.
"These heartless fraudsters will do everything they can to convince you that the relationship is real before taking your money and running," Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said on Saturday.
Online con artists often go to extreme lengths to create realistic profiles and groom their victims over many weeks, months or years to build a relationship.
Once they have gained their victim's trust, they start asking for money for a range of emotive reasons.