Valentine’s Day is upon us and love is well and truly in the air. But remember to protect your heart and your finances!
The 14th of February is a day that is celebrated by romantics across the globe, with heartfelt gestures, gifting and declarations of love. But, it’s also a time when searching for love may make you more susceptible to a romance scam.
According to Scamwatch, in 2023, romance scams accounted for 33% of all reported scams and cost Aussies $30.8 million.¹
How scammers use love against you
Romance scammers are cyber criminals who use dating or relationships online to gain your trust and exploit that trust for money. This usually starts in the form of an unexpected message or friend request on social media or a dating app.
The scammer will tell you all sorts of tall tales about who they are, their home and families, their troubles and eventually, form an inauthentic relationship with you. They’ll usually shower you with compliments and build an emotional connection with you. Once they believe they have you fooled, that’s when the trouble begins.
6 tips to protect your heart against scams
1. Check first impressions before swiping right
When you receive the first message from a suitor to connect, don’t dive in head first but instead have eyes wide open. Always be on the lookout for simple things like whether they have limited personal information on their profile and have few connections, comments, likes and shares on social channels, if they exist.
Do the photos look too professional? Though not impossible, it’s unlikely they organised a photo shoot for their profile and instead sourced their images online.
A small online footprint doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hiding something, it’s always important to be wary.
2. Grab your sleuth hat and do your research
Check if their profile or alias has been identified by other scam victims. Search their name with the word ‘scam,’ or reverse search the images on their profile with a search engine like Google. This way, you can be sure the image hasn’t been taken from elsewhere.
Even if you’re confident you’ve done your due diligence, question their claims so you can be sure that they are the dreamboat you believe they are.
3. Roses are red, so are red flags
There are a few common red flags based on the way a scammer will behave.
Though passion isn’t a crime, scammers can express feelings very quickly in an attempt to take advantage of those who have a strong desire for a relationship. Despite this, they have endless excuses for not showing themselves on camera or meeting in person.
Scammers are also keen to keep your relationship private. They will suggest moving your conversation off the dating site or social platform to an alternative private messenger. They’ll attempt to persuade you to only trust them and may try to isolate you from your friends and family.
Questioning or declining their demands may see the scammer’s attitude evolve from marriage material to something more desperate and threatening.
4. Keep your heart close, and your wallet closer
Money is the ultimate goal of romance scammers. Once they’ve gained your trust, they are likely to ask you for money either directly or more subtly. For example, they might attempt to convince you to invest in an initial product offering (IPO), cryptocurrency, shares or bonds. Beware of investment opportunities touted as a low-risk, high-return opportunity. Please ensure you only take financial advice from individuals who hold a AFS license instead of people you meet online.
Another method used is to pull on your heart strings by asking you to send money so they can come and visit. Or, to help them fund an emergency they can’t afford, like a hospital procedure.
Once the payment has been made, the culprit will likely disappear leaving you high and dry, or continue to seek opportunities to request for more money, without paying anything back.
Even if they’re not asking for money directly, the scammer may ask to send you money to your bank account then ask you to transfer these funds to another account. You may be unknowingly recruited as a money mule.
5. Sharing isn’t always caring
Though you might want to show your partner an authentic version of yourself, be conscious of the personal information you’re sharing.
Never allow them any form of access to your finances. Don’t share passwords, one-time codes, card numbers or PIN codes. Additionally, never allow anyone remote access to your devices and systems.
If it is meant to be, they should never be concerned about the funds in your bank account.
6. Trust your gut, not your heart
Does everything they say match up? Keep an eye out for any discrepancies in conversation and with the information listed about them online.
It can be a tough notion to swallow, especially over the Valentine’s season. A thought to keep at the forefront of your mind is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
What to do if you get scammed
How do I report a scammer?
Look out for your fellow romance seekers by reporting scams as soon as it happens.
Report scams at ACCC Scamwatch.
For more resources
Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.
Keep up to date with the latest security alerts.
Read the ANZ Cyber Security - How to Bank securely brochure (PDF).
Support is available
IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s free national identity and cyber support service. They can help you plan to limit the damage. Call them on 1800 595 160 or visit their website to find out more.
Being scammed is an unpleasant experience and it can happen to anyone. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to family and friends or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.