WA lonely hearts lose $30,000 a day

Kent Acott
Dating danger: WA people losing money to scammers. Picture: Supplied

West Australians in search of love are losing almost $30,000 a day in West African money scams.

The Department of Commerce's annual report has revealed that 200 West Australians fell victim to romance scams in 2013-14, losing a total of $10.4 million - a 75 per cent increase on the $5.9 million lost in 2012-13.

In most of the scams, money was sent to Benin, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana and Togo.

The report said romance fraud had become an increasing concern, with the department working with WA Police in Project Sunbird to monitor and disrupt "sophisticated and systematic international fraud targeting West Australians".

It said the sophistication, diversity and reach of the fraud had required new and innovative responses.

These included focusing on data analysis, using social and traditional media, and establishing links with international law enforcement agencies. After working with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the department for the first time had been able to recover money a romance scam victim had transferred.

It is understood the 51-year-old Perth mother, known only as Jenny, lost a six-figure sum in a fraud that began late last year.

She sent three big amounts to a Chinese bank account after starting an online relationship with a man called Gary she had met on a well-known dating website.

He claimed he was an American working in Perth in the oil and gas industry.

When she pushed to meet him, he claimed he had to fly to Britain for work.

Soon after, Gary asked her for money to finish a project, claiming his own funds were delayed.

After the fraud was exposed, authorities were able to freeze money in the Chinese account and retrieve some funds.

A 26-year-old Nigerian man has been charged over the fraud.