Scammers prey on those looking for love connections, frequently through dating websites, apps, or social media, by posing as potential partners. They use emotional manipulation to persuade you to donate money, gifts, or personal information.
How does this con work?
Dating and romance scams are frequently perpetrated through online dating services, although scammers may also contact victims via social media or email. They’ve even been known to call their victims to introduce themselves. Catfishing is another term for these types of scams.
Scammers usually build false internet profiles to get you to give them your personal information. They may use a fictitious name or impersonate real, trustworthy people, such as military officers, charity workers, or international experts.
Dating and romance fraudsters will profess intense feelings for you in a short period of time and recommend that you take your connection off the website and into a more private channel, such as phone, email, or instant messaging. They often say they are from Australia or another western country, when in reality they are traveling or working in a different country.
Scammers will go to great efforts to pique your interest and gain your trust, including lavishing you with affection, giving you ‘personal information’, and even sending you gifts. They might spend months building what seems like a once-in-a-lifetime relationship with you and even book flights to come see you, but they never show up.
Once they have your trust and your defenses are down, they will ask you for money, gifts, or your banking or credit card information (either discreetly or outright). They may also request that you provide them with photos or videos of yourself, sometimes of a personal nature.
Often, the con artist may claim that the money is needed for a personal emergency. They may, for example, claim to have a critically ill family member who requires emergency medical attention, such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial distress owing to a string of bad luck, such as a failed business or a street mugging. The scammer may even say that they wish to visit you but are unable to do so unless you can lend them money to cover their flight or other travel fees.
Scammers will occasionally mail you important items like laptop computers and cell phones and ask you to resend them somewhere else. They’ll make up a reason why they need you to supply the things, but it’s merely a ruse to hide their criminal behavior. Alternatively, they may ask you to purchase the things and ship them to them. It’s possible that you’ll be requested to receive money into your bank account and subsequently transfer it to another person.
The scammer may inform you of a significant sum of money or gold that they need to transfer out of their nation and offer you a piece of it. They will claim that they require your funds to pay for administrative costs or taxes.
Because dating and romance scammers are sometimes part of international criminal networks, they can endanger your personal safety. Scammers may try to get their victims to travel abroad, which could put them in dangerous situations that could end in death.
You could lose a lot of money regardless of how you are conned. Every year, online dating and romance scams defraud Australians of millions of dollars. The money you give to scammers is usually never recoverable, and you may experience long-term emotional betrayal at the hands of someone you believed loved you.
You meet someone online and, after a few exchanges, they express intense feelings for you and request a private conversation. If you meet on one, they will try to get you to leave the dating site and connect with you via chat or email.
Their online dating profile or Facebook page contradicts what they say to you. For example, their profile picture doesn’t match what they say about themselves, or they say they went to college but can’t speak English well.
They tell you an intricate story and ask for money, gifts, or your bank account or credit card data after building your trust—which can take weeks, months, or even years.
Their messages are frequently badly written, ambiguous, and go from introduction to affection abruptly.
If you don’t provide the money immediately, they’ll become more desperate, insistent, and direct in their texts and calls. They will continue to beg you to give additional money if you do send money.
They don’t follow through on their promises, and they constantly have an excuse for why they can’t meet you or why they need more money.
Sending money to someone you haven’t met in person is never a good idea.
Always keep in mind that the approach could be a hoax, especially if any of the warning flags described above arise. Regardless of how concerned or persistent the “potential partner” is, try to detach emotion from your decision-making.
Perform an image search on your admirer to see whether they are who they claim to be. You can utilize image search engines like Google to find what you’re looking for.
TinEye is another option.
If you want to Skype with each other, be aware of things like language and grammar errors, contradictions in their stories, and other signals that it’s a fraud, such as their camera not working.
When sharing personal photos or videos with potential partners, be cautious, especially if you haven’t met them previously. Scammers have been known to use incriminating material to blackmail their victims.
If you agree to meet a potential partner in person, make sure your family and friends are aware of your plans. Scamwatch strongly advises against traveling to another country to meet someone you have never met before.
Requests for money should be avoided. Never pay money to someone you don’t know or trust, or give them access to your credit card information, online account information, or copies of vital personal papers.
Avoid any transaction with a stranger that requires payment in advance via money order, wire transfer, foreign funds transfer, pre-loaded card, or electronic currency such as Bitcoin. Money sent this way is extremely difficult to reclaim.
Money laundering is a criminal offense, so don’t accept transfer money for someone else.
Use extreme caution while sharing personal information on social networking sites. Scammers could use your information and photos to create a fake identity or target you for a scam.