Experts have issued grim warnings about romance scams, pet poisoning and hits to small business on Valentine’s Day.
Aspiring lovebirds should be on alert for scams, authorities say.
Australians lost $37 million to romance scams in 2020, a whopping $9 million more than in the previous year.
The NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson says scams usually spike around Valentine’s Day.
“You’ve got to use your head when it comes to online romances,” Mr Anderson said.
“Alarm bells should be ringing if the relationship seems to be moving too fast, for example if someone’s telling you they love you after one conversation, or if their story seems a bit farfetched or unrealistic,” Mr Anderson said.
“Ultimately, if something feels a bit off, it probably is.”
People aged 45 to 64 are most likely to fall victim to a romance scam. Scammers most often use dating websites and social media to find their prey.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning of a particular type of scam called ‘romance baiting’ – where scammers seduce people on dating sites then mention an investment opportunity.
“These scams prey on people seeking connection and can leave victims with significant financial losses and emotional distress,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
The state that lost the most money to romance scams in 2020 was NSW with $12.8 million, according to Reviews.org.
Even people whose partners are real should not relax on Valentine’s Day, with the risk that romantic gifts could harm their pets.
The rate at which dogs are poisoned by chocolate can double at festive moments like Valentine’s Day, according to Pet Insurance Australia.
“It’s that time of year again when many will be awaiting an outpouring of romance this Valentine’s Day,” Pet Insurance Australia spokesperson Nadia Crighton says.
“However, it’s really important that people ensure their pets are kept safe.”
Chocolate can cause the unromantic symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and pain for dogs, and sometimes even death.
Ms Crighton also warned cat owners to watch out for lilies in Valentine’s Day bouquets, as lily poisoning can cause acute kidney failure in felines.
Valentine’s Day will be particularly grim in Victoria, which is on its second day of a five-day lockdown to curb a COVID-19 outbreak.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Chief Executive Paul Guerra described it as “Groundhog Day” for Victorian businesses.
This weekend was slated to be one of the busiest for some time due to Valentine’s Day and the Australian Open, Mr Guerra said.
“Business will once again have to absorb the cost of stock losses, while thousands of Victorians won’t be able to work. It’s another massive blow to our economy which was just starting to get back on its feet.”
He said Victorian businesses should not have to keep paying the price for “shortcomings” in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system.