Australians lost more than $28.6 million to romance scams in 2019 – and these numbers are expected to be “just the tip of the iceberg”, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Nearly 4,000 dating and romance scams were reported in 2019, with 37.5 per cent of them resulting in financial losses.

The victims lost an average of $19,000 from scams on various online platforms, including dating platforms Plenty of Fish and, social media sites Google Hangouts and Facebook, and online games Words with Friends and Scrabble.

“We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“No longer are dating websites the only contact method for dating and romance scams, with an increasing number of reports coming from these emerging websites and apps.”

The most affected demographic was people aged 45 to 64, with 1,470 reports and more than $18 million in losses. More than a third of the losses (33.8 per cent or almost $9.7 million) occurred through bank transfer, followed by other payment methods such as iTunes and Google Play gift cards, which 30.8 per cent ($8.8 million) of all losses.

Scammers would generally ask the victim to send money or provide financial aid so they can purportedly meet each other in person, the ACCC warned.

The con artist would guilt-trip the victim if they refuse, or ask for more money if they comply.

“Don’t give out personal information, including your financial details, to anybody you haven’t met in person, no matter who they say they are, and don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting,” Rickard said.

“Don’t agree to carry packages internationally or agree to transfer money for someone else as you may be inadvertently committing a crime.”

“If you become concerned by the conversation, such as if the person is asking for ‘favours’ or money, cease communication.”

This article originally appeared on Over60.