Dating and Romance Scams
A Legacy Article from January 2013
What are dating and romance scams?
Dating and romance scams try to lower your defenses 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 traveling 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 offense: 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.
- You meet someone on an internet dating website and their profile picture or photograph looks different from their description or like it’s from a magazine.
- After just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you and suggest moving the conversation away from the website preferring email, instant messaging and/or phone instead.
- After gaining your trust, they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts, or your bank account/credit card details.
- They continue to ask you for money, but never actually visit you.
- If you don’t send money straight away, their emails and calls will often become more desperate, persistent, or direct.
- The email is poorly written, vague, or contains specific information taken directly from news articles, repeats itself, you are addressed by the wrong name, or the email is not personally addressed at all.
Protect yourself from dating and romance scams
- ALWAYS consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent they seem.
- Talk to an independent friend, relative or fair trading agency before you send any money. THINK TWICE before sending money to someone you have only recently met online or haven’t met in person.
- NEVER give credit card or online account details to anyone by email.
- Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
- If you agree to meet in person, tell family and friends where you are going. If this includes overseas travel, consider carefully the advice on https://travel.state.gov before making any plans.
- Where possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
- Money laundering is a criminal offense: do not agree to transfer money for someone else.
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 SCARS and your local police. 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 other articles and pages for more information on the tactics dating and romance scammers will use to try and convince you to buy into their scam.
- Psychic & clairvoyant scams – If you are contacted by a psychic or clairvoyant offering you mystical secrets to wealth, health, and luck, be very wary. Do not be fooled by fantastic claims and promises, they may be scams.
- Charity scams – These scams play on your generosity and involve a scammer posing as a genuine charity in order to fraudulently collect money.
- Missed calls & text messages from unknown numbers – Missed calls that can lead to premium rate charges. Mysterious text messages can cost a lot of money if you reply to them.
- Credit card scams – There are many types of scams that aim to steal your credit card details, either by taking the card itself or by tricking you into giving them the card’s details.
- Fake online pharmacies – Fake online pharmacies offer drugs and medicines at very cheap prices or without a prescription. They can cause you major health and money problems.
- Spam (junk mail) offers – Spam emails, SMS or MMS usually offer free goods or ‘prizes’, very cheap products, or promises of wealth. Responding to spam messages can result in problems for your computer and your bank account.