The rise in online romance scams and victim suicides has caused authorities to enforce a rule that all dating websites must display scam warnings on their site.
Almost 600 Australians had lost 15.1 million dollars to cyber-criminals posing as potential partners, with one-in-five being duped of more than 100,000 dollars, a top-lever conference was told yesterday.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said romance scams had become the "fraud of choice" and victims were being left financially and emotionally crushed.
"We're seeing thousands of Australians sending millions of dollars to criminals overseas every month," News.com.au quoted him as telling the International Organised Fraud Symposium at Sanctuary Cove.
"Apart from losing large amounts of wealth and in some cases their homes as a result of this brutal type of offence, some people take suicide as an option," he said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has ordered dating websites to display scam warnings and is threatening action against companies that fail to comply.
ACCC deputy chairman Peter Kell said many victims were elderly widows.
Queensland Police Fraud Squad chief superintendent Brian Hay said women "are twice as likely to be victims".
"It's particularly savage. We're talking about vulnerable people who put their heart on the line and lose their house and life savings as well," he said.