Unfortunately, romance and dating scams are on the rise as scammers target people isolated and vulnerable due to the coronavirus pandemic. Here we look into what a romance scam is and how you can prevent it from happening to you.
What is a romance scam?
A romance scam is when a scammer creates a fake profile through an online dating site or social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook. The scammer will use their phoney profile to try and gain your affection with sweet words and shortly thereafter profess their love for you.
Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your trust, showering you with love declarations, sharing ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts. This may happen over several months until you are conned into believing that you are in a romantic relationship.
Once your trust is gained and defences down, the scammer will pretend to have a personal emergency and ask for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. The scammer may also claim they want to travel and see you but cannot afford it unless you pay for the expenses. Never send money or gifts to someone you have not met in person.
What are the signs of a romance scam?
- A romance scammer is quick to profess their love to you.
- Claims to be from Australia or another western country but is ‘currently overseas for business or military’.
- Tries to lure you off the dating site and communicate through personal email and texting instead.
- Claims to need money for emergencies like hospital expenses or travel and in some sneaky cases to pay off gambling debts.
- Makes plans to visit you but can’t because of an emergency.
What can you do to avoid being scammed?
It’s pretty simple, never send money or gifts to someone you have not met in person or claims circumstances that ring alarm bells.
If you suspect a romance scam, take these steps:
- Immediately stop communicating with the person.
- Talk to someone you trust and listen to family and friends if they are concerned about your new love interest.
- Search the type of job that the person has and see if there are any associated scams i.e. Oil Rig Operator scams.
- Conduct an image search of your admirer to help determine if they are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye.
- Be cautious when sharing personal pictures and videos as the scammer may use them to blackmail you.
- And again, be very wary of requests for money. Never send money, give credit card details or important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
I think I have been scammed. What can I do?
While it might be embarrassing to admit that you have been scammed, if you have transferred money or provided your banking details to a scammer you must act quick and contact Defence Bank straight away.
You should also report the scam to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This way others will be warned of the scam and it may also help in disrupting the scam from further happening.
For more information about romance and dating scams visit scamwatch.gov.au.
The scams and fraud pandemic.