You’ve met someone online, but the facts aren’t adding up?
While there are many success stories of people who’ve met through apps, websites and social media, there are risks involved with some people seeking love who are victimised by online scammers, leaving them heartbroken, with a financial loss. These scams are also known as ‘catfishing’.
In 2021 Australians reported to Scamwatch losses of more than $56 million as a result of romance scams, with the highest amount of losses through social media platforms, followed by mobile apps. Consumer protection agencies across Australia are reminding people of the warning signs and characteristics of scammers, warning consumers not to be complacent and that victims aren’t just those who are actively seeking a partner; that it could be you, your friend or family member.
Scammers will express strong feelings for you in a relatively short period of time, and can spend many months building up trust before they ask for money. Scam victims sometimes send money because they feel the need for money is genuine and are prepared to invest in the ‘relationship’, or they might send money towards an airfare believing that their love interest will come and see them.
Here are some warning signs to consider if you’re dating online:
- Be wary if the person you’ve met online quickly wants to move communications away from the dating website or app. For example, they might want to communicate with you by email, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp or Viber.
- After gaining your trust over time they ask you to send money. They might say their money is stuck because of a legal problem or they have a sick relative and they need money to cover the medical costs.
- If there’s no way that you can meet them in person or they are always unavailable for a video call, and they make excuses about why they can’t travel to see you and require funds, then it could be a scam.
- If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they continue to ask you to send more.
Follow these tips to keep safe when dating online:
- Before you let someone know you’re interested in them, do some checks. Do a reverse Google Image search or TinEye reverse image search to check if their profile is legitimate.
- Arrange to meet in person, or ask to speak via video.
- Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment through money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or gift card, or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way in the event it is a scam.
- If you’ve already given your bank account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution to stop any further losses.
Many romance scam victims not only lose money, but they also experience fraud – e.g. they discover that new mobile phone accounts have been set up in their name, or the scammer has accessed their superannuation account. Be careful with the personal information you share with the person you’re dating online. Don’t share your personal identification documents like a driver licence or passport.
If you think your friend or family member is a victim of a romance scam, talk to them about the warning signs and our tips on staying safe.
Contact IDCARE if you, or someone you know has fallen victim to identity theft. It’s important to act quickly to reduce any potential for further damage. IDCARE is a free, government-funded service which will work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process. Visit www.idcare.org or call 1300 IDCARE (432273).
Report scams to the national Scamwatch service at scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam
For more information, visit the ScamWatch website at https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/dating-romance or contact NT Consumer Affairs on 1800 019 319 or firstname.lastname@example.org