Valentines Day - Don’t fall head-over-heels for a scammer

11 February 2011

If you meet someone special online, be careful: scammers use online dating websites too but they’re not genuinely after your love, only your money!

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 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. They will then ask you for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details.  They will claim they need these to cover the costs associated with non-existent accidents and illnesses, various fees and charges associated with precious goods such as diamonds, gold bullion and gemstones, or to pretend to book flights to visit you. They will never actually visit and will continue to request more money from you.
 
Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year, often costing individual victims thousands of dollars – not to mention heartache too.

The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional loss and betrayal at the hands of someone who you thought loved you and was trustworthy.

Warning signs

  • You meet someone on an internet dating website and their profile picture or photograph looks different to 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 details.
  • They continue to ask you for money, but never actually visit you.
  • If you don’t send money straightaway, their emails and calls will often become more desperate, persistent or direct.

Protect yourself

  • 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 www.smarttraveller.gov.au before making any plans.
  • Where possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or moneygram. 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.

Report

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

More information

Check out our Dating and romance scams page on SCAMwatch for more information. You can also read romance scam victims’ stories - Georgina's facebook fiancé leaves her flat broke.

SCAMwatch has issued the following radars on dating and romance scams in the past:
• Be my Valentine
• Beware of the Valentine that steals more than your heart

Read more