Real life romances can and do happen online, but sadly not every story ends well. As with most new experiences, it’s far better to be safe than sorry. And that couldn’t be more pertinent when you consider dating and romance frauds are on the rise, with Australians losing over $60 million each year to online scammers, leaving a trail of heartbreak in their wake.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says romance scammers are becoming increasingly manipulative with more than 4,000 Australians falling victim each year. Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions.
They play on emotional triggers to get those looking for romance to provide money, gifts or personal details and will often claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention. They may even send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask you to resend them somewhere.
The ACCC says one of the key modus operandi of those looking to take advantage of vulnerable Australians looking for romance online is that the scammer will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time.
They may even suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. They often claim to be from Australia or another Western country but travelling or working overseas.
Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as showering you with loving words, sharing personal information and even sending gifts. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come, the ACCC says.
To help protect yourself against financial or emotional harm from online dating scammers the ACCC suggests:
Restrict the personal information you share on social networks as scammers can use it to target you.
Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.
Do an image search of your admirer to help determine their real identity.
Be cautious sharing personal pictures or videos, as scammers can use them to blackmail you.
If you agree to meet an admirer in person, tell family and friends where you are going.
Be wary of requests for money and never give out credit card or account details.
Do not transfer money for someone else as money laundering is a criminal offence.
Source: ACCC Scamwatch