SCAMwatch is warning those looking for love online to be wary of dating and romance scams.
SCAMwatch has received hundreds of complaints about online dating and romance scams. Scammers target victims by creating fake profiles on genuine internet dating sites, chat rooms or introductory service classifieds.
Scammers will go to great lengths to form a strong and trusting relationship with you. They will also often prey on your emotional vulnerability.
Once trust is established, scammers will use a variety of excuses to ask for money. Common excuses include medical bills for sickness and unexpected accidents, airfares and other costs.
Money and gifts sent to scammers are often difficult, if not impossible, to recover. In addition to money lost, victims often note the long-lasting emotional effects of having been betrayed by someone they thought they loved and trusted.
- The profile picture or photograph of your 'date' doesn't match up to the description they provided. For example, the photograph looks like it is from a magazine.
- Your potential 'date' expresses strong emotions after only a few letters or emails.
- You are asked for money, your bank account details or gifts.
- The emails become more desperate, persistent or direct if you don't send money straightaway.
How to protect yourself
- Only give personal details to people you know and trust.
- Be wary of anyone who you have not personally met who asks you to send them money, gifts or your banking and credit card details.
- 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.
- Carefully assess people's profiles.
- When you agree to personally meet, tell family and friends where you are going.
- Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software and use a good firewall.
If you think you have struck up a romance with a scammer, you can report a scam on SCAMwatch.
You should also be sure to warn your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours about the scammer.
Visit victim stories to learn more about real life dating and romance experiences and learn how to recognise and spot scams.