While looking for love online can be fun and exciting, it can also lead to heartbreak, as scammers look to exploit vulnerable people around Valentine’s Day.
Dating and romance scams accounted for more than $20 million in losses across Australia in 2017 - with Victorians losing more than $4.7 million – according to the Scamwatch website.
Romance scammers groom targets over weeks and months, often making plans to meet and sharing grand declarations of love.
They generally meet their victims on dating sites or apps, quickly looking to move the conversation to email, text or instant messaging, in order to avoid detection.
The scammers’ pretext is to establish a sense of trust and intimacy; instead, it leads to requests for money to cover a range of supposed expenses - legal and medical emergencies, important business investments, or a plane ticket to visit are among the common excuses.
By this point, the person may be so invested in the relationship that they do not even question whether something could be wrong, even resisting when family and friends alert them.
Unfortunately, as with other scams, once you lose money it is very difficult to get it back.
To protect yourself, or someone you know, from a romance scam:
- be extremely suspicious of anyone who:
- avoids meeting you in person or being seen via video chat
- asks you to share intimate or sensitive personal information, such as photos
- asks you a lot of questions, but is vague when talking about themselves
- makes over-the-top expressions of love or a marriage proposal
- quickly tries to move the conversation off the dating site or app to your personal email or another channel.
- never send money or share your bank details with someone you have not met in person, even if you have spoken to them or received gifts. If you send money via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer, it can be impossible to recover it.
You can report a scam by completing the form on our Report a scam page.
For more information on what to do if you have been scammed, visit our If you are scammed page.