As Valentine’s Day approaches, lonely hearts should be on high alert for scammers when looking for love online.
Victorians lost more than $4.2 million to romance scams in 2016 – up by around $200,000 on the previous year.
Nationally, more than $24 million was lost was lost by Australians to romance scams in 2016, with more than $2 million in February alone.
Romance scammers tend to follow a formula, generally meeting their victims on dating sites and quickly suggesting they instead talk over email, text or instant messaging in order to avoid detection.
Often based overseas, they groom targets over weeks and months, often making plans to meet and sharing grand declarations of love.
Once a sense of trust and intimacy is established, the requests for money begin – legal and medical emergencies, important business investments or wanting to buy a plane ticket to visit are all common themes.
By this point, the person may be so invested in the relationship they do not even question whether something could be amiss.
Tips for avoiding romance scams include:
- Be extremely suspicious of anyone who avoids meeting face to face, asks you a lot of questions, but is vague when talking about themselves, makes over-the top expressions of love or a marriage proposal or who quickly tries to move the conversation away from an online dating site
- Never send money or share your bank details with someone you have not met in person
- Use Google’s reverse image search function to check if their photos appear elsewhere on the internet
You can report a scam by calling Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81 or online at www.consumer.vic.gov.au
Quotes attributable to Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz
“These dodgy con artists prey on people searching for love with empty promises of a happy future together.”
“Don’t be fooled by these fraudsters. They are experts at spinning elaborate webs of lies to win sympathy and fool people into handing over their hard earned money.”
“The fallout from a romance scam can be emotionally and financially devastating. If you think you’re being scammed, report it as soon as possible so we can stop these criminals in their tracks.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020