Dating and romance scams
What are dating and romance scams?
Dating and romance scams try to lower your defences by appealing to your romantic or compassionate side. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.
Scammers target victims by creating fake profiles on legitimate internet dating services. Once you are in contact with a scammer, they will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time and will suggest you move the relationship away from the website, to phone, email and/or instant messaging. Scammers often claim to be from Australia, but travelling or working overseas.
They will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as sharing personal information and even sending you gifts. Scammers may take months, to build what seems like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come. Once they have gained your trust they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. They will pretend to need these for a variety of reasons.
For example, they may claim to be in the depths of despair due to financial hardship or an ill family member.
In other cases, the scammer might start off by sending you flowers or other small gifts then will tell you about a large amount of money they need to transfer out of their country or that they want to share with you. They will then ask for your banking details or money to cover administrative fees or taxes to free up the money. WARNING – This may be money laundering which is a criminal offence: never agree to transfer money for someone else.
Alternatively scammers may claim to have fallen ill or been involved in a serious accident. They will then ask you for money to pay medical bills or travel expenses to visit you. In some instances you may even be contacted by someone claiming to be their doctor.
Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone who you thought loved you and was trustworthy.
As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.
If you think you’ve spotted a scam, report a scam to SCAMwatch or contact the ACCC on 1300 795 995. You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.
You can read two romance scam victims’ stories - How online romances cost Melba and Paul more than their hearts. Also check out our Grooming scams page for more information on the tactics dating and romance scammers will use to try and convince you to buy into their scam.
SCAMwatch has issued the following radars on dating and romance scams in the past: