Finding love through a dating website or app is becoming increasingly common, but while most people know romance scams exist, they sometimes miss the warning signs. They want to believe the person they’ve met online and fallen madly in love with is genuinely interested in them.
Scammers are prepared to invest a lot of time building up trust and may even send gifts to the person they say they love. Conversations can go on for many weeks or even months before they start asking for money.
Dating websites and apps provide a forum for people to connect, but they can’t guarantee that people who join their platforms are genuine about finding love or that their profiles are real.
In 2018 Australians reported losses of more than $24 million to dating and romance scammers to ScamWatch. Consumer protection agencies across Australia are advising people who are looking for love to be careful with their information and not to send money to anyone they’ve only met online or via social media.
Warning signs to look out for:
- The person you’ve met online is quick to express strong feelings for you and wants to move your communications away from the dating website or app.
- There are inconsistencies between their profile picture and how they describe themselves
- There’s no way that you can meet the person, without you having to send them money. They may make excuses about why they can’t travel to see you.
- After gaining your trust they ask you to send money. They might say their money is stuck in a legal problem or they have a sick relative and they need money to cover the medical costs.
Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. But if you suspect you’ve already sent money to a scammer, then stop sending any more money and cease all contact with the scammer. If you think you’ve given your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
You also need to be careful about the personal information that you share, and avoid sharing compromising material. Scammers can use these to blackmail their targets or to commit identify fraud.