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Lonely Heart Scams

What seemed a genuine romance ultimately left one woman devastated.

What you can do
What you can do
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There’s little recourse for victims of romance scams. Money sent to romance scammers is almost always impossible to recover, and police don’t have the ability to investigate most cases.

Pete Steel, Executive General Manager Digital at the Commonwealth Bank, says the bank offers customers a 100 per cent guarantee against fraud where they are not at fault. For example, it will fully reimburse customers who notice a fraudulent transaction on their bank statement.

But if you willingly transfer money to someone you don’t know, even if you are the victim of a scam, there’s little the bank can do.

“We invest in state-of-the-art fraud prevention and detection technology and have a dedicated team who actively monitor unusual or suspicious activity. Another way we try to keep ahead of the curve is working closely with law enforcement agencies and other banks to share information and understand potential threats,” Steel says. 

“However, customers need to remain vigilant, protect their banking details and be smart about who they send money to.”

There’s very little legal recourse for victims of romance scams, either. Crimes can be reported to your local police and to Scamwatch at www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam. The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) automatically refers suitable reports to law enforcement agencies.

But whether a case is followed up depends on a number of factors, including the type of incident, where the suspect is located, and whether the report contains sufficient information about the offence.

According to Dr Cross, supporting victims to recover is vital. “They may need medical assistance to improve their physical and psychological wellbeing, counselling to repair relationships with family, and financial counselling to assist with their financial losses,” she says.

“At present victim support schemes do not apply to non-violent victims of crime, which means they are not acknowledged as victims and not eligible to gain financial assistance for recovery. We need to [revise] victim support schemes to be based on notions of harm rather than an arbitrary offence type.”



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