Australian watchdog eyes lonely hearts scammers

Posted in: Legal & Security at 05/12/2011 21:37

The competition watchdog and online dating industry will crack down on fraudsters exploiting lonely hearts next year, after more than 1600 Australians reported losing $17 million in the online search for romance this year, up from $15 million last year.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is asking the online dating and romance industry to comment on draft guidelines for cleaning up the industry.
http://www.theage.com.au/business/watchdog-eyes-lonely-hearts-scammers-20111205-1oe9a.html
http://www.smh.com.au/business/watchdog-eyes-lonely-hearts-scammers-20111205-1oe9a.html

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Call for comment on draft guidelines for dating websites [news release]
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is calling on the online dating and romance industry to comment on draft guidelines to combat scams in the industry.

The ACCC convened a working group following a meeting with industry representatives in July. The guidelines have been developed by the working group.

Online dating and romance scams cause significant harm to Australian consumers, targeting people from all walks of life, education, background and age group.

Between January and October 2011, more than 1600 complaints and over 17 million dollars in losses have been reported to the ACCC. In 2010 over 15 million dollars in losses were reported.

These scams typically involve 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.

The guidelines are intended to improve and support the measures taken by dating websites to counter the activities of scammers and provide guidance on how to better protect users from scams.

The actions detailed in the guideline fall into three areas:

  • scam warnings and safety information - content and placement online and communication with customers
  • internal verification processes and procedures in relation to profiles placed on dating websites to detect and disrupt the activities of those seeking to engage in fraud
  • internal complaints handling procedures.

The actions detailed in the guidelines are intended to be flexible and their implementation should be adapted to fit the layout, user base and business model of each dating website.

Dating and romance website operators are encouraged to provide comments on the attached guidelines by 16 December 2011. Comments or inquiries should be provided by email to EnforcementACT@accc.gov.au

The ACCC anticipates finalising the guidelines for a launch in early 2012.
http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1020326/fromItemId/142

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