Sydney, Jan 21 (ANI): Online dating sites in Australia are set to face tougher rules following numerous complaints about scams.
These matchmaking sites convince lonely hearts to part with thousands of dollars but fail to find them a partner will be targeted as part of a crackdown on the booming matchmaking industry.
Latest figures from NSW Fair Trading reveal that in 2010-11, there were 186 complaints about online dating sites, most relating to refunds, cancellations and quality of service.
There have been four complaints this month.
The Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, said dating agencies often preyed on the most vulnerable in society.
"Forget sharks this summer, the real sharks are the two-legged variety swimming around the dating game," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Roberts as saying.
"With some of these sites, once you sign on it's like Hotel California because you can never leave and they keep charging your credit card even once you don't want any more to do with them," he said.
Roberts that said he was regularly briefed on dating scams and they often involved people claiming to be a soldier stationed overseas or someone who was recently widowed.
In reality, they were professional scammers who could take thousands of dollars from victims.
"There seems to be a lot of people out there who are prepared to prey on vulnerable individuals," he said.
Fair Trading investigators last year reviewed 24 online dating websites in NSW, focusing on their terms and conditions in relation to unfair contracts and false or misleading representations.
Ten agencies are under further investigation for significant contraventions of the unfair contract term provisions.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also finalising guidelines for online dating and romance sites after more than 1600 Australians reported losing 17 million dollars on the sites last year, up from 15 million dollars in 2010.
The guidelines are likely to urge dating websites to provide prominent warning messages about scams and implement a robust vetting and checking system to identify scammers when they try to register.
Websites will also be encouraged to check the internet protocol addresses to identify people registering from outside Australia and countries often linked to scam activity. (ANI)
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