There’s nothing quite like the early days of a promising new relationship, when you’re full of both adoration for your new partner and hope for a future together.
Sometimes though, people discover the person they’re dating isn’t who they say they are. In some cases, they’re not even the same gender or age they claim to be, or they may not even be in the same country. In fact, they may bear little resemblance at all to the person they say they are. In other words, they’re scammers.
Dating and romance scams cost Australians more than $35 million last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch shows. Sadly, the money is rarely recovered.
While dating and romance fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in the methods they use, Scamwatch reports suggest they have some common tactics. Here’s a quick guide to avoiding them.
What we know about these scams
Dating and romance scams are frequently designed to convince the victim to hand over money. Often, the scammer will use a persuasive story to get their victim to send card details or a cash transfer.
Scamwatch data shows there were slightly more reports of men being scammed (53 per cent) last year, with mobile apps and social networking sites the meeting place of choice for fraudsters. While people of all age groups have been targeted, the 35-44 cohort made the highest number of reports in 2022.
Spotting the signs
Again, scammers use different tactics, but here are some of the ways to identify whether the person you’re speaking to or dating could be suspicious:
- Scammers have been known to show a lot of affection early – they may use loving language when they haven’t known you very long, tell you they have strong feelings or send you gifts.
- They may try to take the relationship off the platform where you met early on. For example, they may move from a dating app to private text or web messaging.
- Scammers may offer to meet, but then come up with an excuse at the last minute, like an accident.
- After a while, they may tell an elaborate story to try to get money – such as a tale about a family emergency or a legal issue.
- Once they have the money, they may disappear abruptly.
How to stay safe
To protect yourself, it’s important never to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, Scamwatch said.
Other tips include:
- Be wary of what you share online.
- Conduct a reverse image search via Google to check the legitimacy of pictures.
- Watch out for changes to their stories or inconsistencies.
- Be aware of the possibility that anyone you haven’t met could, unfortunately, be a scammer.
If you do think you’ve been scammed, you can report it to Scamwatch.