There are many success stories of people who have met through a dating website or app and fallen in love. Sadly, some online daters have also fallen for romance scams.
In 2019, Australians reported to Scamwatch losses of more than $28 million due to romance scams. Consumer protection agencies across Australia are warning people to never send money to someone they have not met in person, and to be aware of some of the hallmarks of a romance scam.
Scammers can spend many months sending messages declaring their love and building trust with a person before they ask for money. People sometimes send money because they feel that the need for funds is genuine, and are prepared to invest in the ‘relationship’; or they might send money towards an airfare believing that the love interest will come and see them.
While the target of the scam is feeling loved-up, the scammer ends up being cashed-up.
Tips to avoid romance scams:
- Before you let someone know you are interested in them, check if their profile photo is genuine by doing a reverse image search using Google Image or TinEye.
- Be wary if the person you have met online quickly wants to move communications away from the dating website or app. For example, they might want to communicate with you by email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber.
- Be very wary of requests to send money. The person might say they need it because theirs is tied up in a legal problem; or they have a sick relative who needs money to cover medical costs.
- Be very suspicious if there is no way you can meet the person face to face without sending them money.
- If the person keeps making excuses about why they cannot travel to see you, or meet you in person, then it could be a scam.
Be careful about the personal information that you share. Many romance scams not only cost money, but also involve fraud. For example, people discover that new mobile phone accounts have been set up in their name, or the scammer has accessed their superannuation account.
If you have already given your bank account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately to stop any further losses.
For more information and tips to avoid romance scams, visit the:
Contact IDCARE if you are affected by identity theft. IDCARE is a free, government-funded service that will work with you to develop a specific response plan for your situation and support you through the process. Visit the IDCARE website
or call 1300 IDCARE (432273).