Romance cons top scams list
Accused: Orowo Jesse Omokoh. Picture: Facebook

Dating and romance scams netted fraudsters more money than any other category last year, the annual scams report reveals.

In its Targeting Scams report released today, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said more than 90,000 people reported scams last year, with nearly $90 million reported lost.

The number of victims was up from 84,000 in 2012, though the overall losses dropped slightly from $93 million.

"In 2013, dating and romance scams moved to the top of financial losses with over $25 million reported lost - despite making up only 3 per cent of all scam reports to the ACCC," deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said.

"Sadly, 43 per cent of people who reported being approached by a scam admirer also lost money, a decrease from previous years but nevertheless a high strike rate for scammers."

In WA, 241 people reported being targeted by romance scams, with 97 becoming victims who lost more than $2.28 million.

Requests for up-front payments was the most commonly reported scam in WA, with more than 2000 people reporting contact from a fraudster offering money or goods in exchange for a fee paid in advance. More than 253 West Australians fell for the con, reporting losses of $1.49 million.

Other effective scams include phishing and identity theft, promised lottery winnings, computer hacking and false billing.

Ms Rickard said the annual scams report showed that scammers reaped benefits when they took time to develop a connection with victims, with relationship scams causing the most significant emotional and economic harm.

"These scammers invest considerable time and effort deceiving you into a fake romance, a fraudulent business partnership or a complex investment scheme," she said.

"People should be particularly vigilant in asking themselves who they are really dealing with when they meet the person online."

The ACCC said it plans to focus this year on identifying and warning suspected victims of relationship scams by building on work done by WA detectives under Project Sunbird, which targeted scammers operating from West Africa.

Last year, WA pensioner Jette Jacobs, 67, was found dead in suspicious circumstances after she went to South Africa to marry a suspected Nigerian scammer she met online.

Orowo Jesse Omokoh, 28, who allegedly conned Ms Jacobs out of $97,400, appeared in court this month charged with deception. He pleaded not guilty.

The West Australian

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