Protect your wallet and your heart this Valentine’s Day

14 February 2013

SCAMwatch is warning those looking for love online not to fall for scammers this Valentine’s Day.

Scammers target victims by setting up fake profiles on legitimate dating and social networking websites and in chat rooms. They will often go to great lengths to gain your interest and your trust, investing significant time in building a relationship with you.  Once your defences are lowered, scammers will concoct elaborate yet plausible sounding stories to try and get you to part with your money. They will spin tales of illness, injury, or a family crisis to play on your heart strings.

Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year, often costing individual victims thousands of dollars – not to mention heartache too.

Valentine’s Day often finds the lonely hearted seeking friendship or love, but beware – scammers will not hesitate to break your heart in an attempt to gain your money.

How these scams work

  • You meet someone online, such as through a dating or social networking website, who you seem to ‘connect’ with. The person may claim to have similar likes and dislikes or have gone through similar experiences
  • Once they have built up trust and a rapport with you – which can take just a few weeks or several months – they profess to have strong feelings for you.
  • They usually suggest moving the relationship away from the website, claiming that they prefer private email, instant messaging or telephone.
  • After gaining your trust, they tell you an elaborate story – about how they need help with some difficult situation – and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details. Some common tales of woe used to gain an emotional response from you are based on serious illness, injury or a family crisis.
  • If you help them out of the ‘situation’ by sending them money, they soon come back with additional requests for financial help.
  • If you don’t send money, their emails and calls will often become more desperate, persistent or direct.

Protect yourself

  • Watch out: if an online admirer asks to communicate outside the dating website, it could be a scammer.
  • Think twice: Never send money or give your personal details to someone you met online even if they tell a convincing tale of woe and ask for your support.
  • Avoid: Never agree to a request by a stranger who asks for upfront payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer – it’s rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Report: If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Report

See SCAMwatch’s Online Dating and Romance Scams section for more information on how these scams work and how to avoid them.

You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

More information

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov

The ACCC has worked with dating and romance websites to develop voluntary guidelines aimed at protecting consumers from dating scams.

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