Ms VAGHELA: My constituency question today is for the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, the Honourable Marlene Kairouz. According to the Scamwatch website, dating and romance scams accounted for more than $24 million in losses across Australia in 2018, with Victorians losing more than $4.1 million. A 69-year-old man lost $377 000 after signing up to a dating agency. The scammers organised for him to meet a woman they claimed wanted to marry him. The scammers, who are believed to be from interstate, made multiple trips to Victoria, where the victim handed over large amounts of cash. Every day we hear more about scams, including tax scams, fake charity scams and text message scams. I was particularly concerned to hear about romance scams around Valentine’s Day which target vulnerable people in our community who are just looking for love. My question to the minister is: what is Consumer Affairs Victoria doing to protect my constituents in Western Metropolitan Region from such scams, and can she provide me with an update?
Hon Marlene Kairouz MP (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Minister for Suburban Development): The Victorian Government is aware of the scourge of scams operating in our communities.
The best protection is to know the warning signs of a potential scams, so as not to fall victim in the first place.
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) helps to educate and protect Victorians from scams through the innovative use of social media and online channels. CAV uses these channels to quickly warn of circulating and new scams and how to best avoid them.
CAV uses a variety of tools to assist in educating consumers, including the use of videos and an online quiz covering common scams such as romance scams, investment scams, and computer repair scams. Information about avoiding scams is available on the CAV website and is provided in 26 different languages.
In February this year, CAV was part of a national education campaign for romance scams. This included articles in metropolitan and regional media, as well as messages in social media.
CAV runs an annual scams awareness campaign, which last year focused on protecting older Victorians online. The campaign, in partnership with Crime Stoppers Victoria, included scams awareness sessions for older Victorians across the state, a special scams awareness sessions during Law Week, and a comprehensive social media campaign.
Sharing information with partners is another way to stop scammers. CAV works with other agencies trough the national Scams Awareness Network (formerly the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce) to warn the public about emerging scams and where possible disrupt the activity.
For the latest advice on scams circulating in the community, I encourage all Victorians to follow CAV on social media, visit the CAV website and regularly review their local community press.
And if anyone has information about the scams, I encourage them to make a report to Scamwatch, so that the information can be shared to protect others in the community.