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Swiping right? Here’s how to stay safe from romance scams

Security specialist

2024-04-03 00:00

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After multiple chats on dating websites, you feel like you’ve finally found ‘the one’. They’re the perfect partner and you message them every day and night. And when they ask you for money, of course you send some across – you’re both absolutely in love and they desperately need it. But after they receive the money, your ‘partner’ suddenly disappears. Or maybe they keep asking you for financial support. 

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

In 2023, Scamwatch reported that Australians lost over $34 million to romance and dating scams. But not all hope (and love) is lost – we’re going to guide you through what a romance scam is and how to spot one, so you can date safely and confidently.

What is a romance scam?

Simply put, a romance scam is when a scammer gains your trust online over a period of time to gain financial influence over you. These scammers often use fake names and identities, with many claiming that they’re from Australia but are ‘working overseas’.

Once they’ve gained your trust, the scammer might ask you for a financial favour – for example, asking for hundreds of dollars to help pay for a flight to visit you. The scammer will either disappear without a trace (and with your money) or keep asking you for cash. 


How can you spot a romance scam?

If you’ve just matched with someone online, there are several signs to look for to protect your wallet and your heart:

  • The scammer expresses strong feelings very early in the relationship. They also progress the relationship a little too quickly.

  • They move the conversation you’re having on a dating app or website to a private messaging app, so they aren’t flagged as suspicious for sending the same message multiple times.

  • They never appear on camera or meet you in person and always have an excuse as to why.

  • They keep making and breaking promises to see you in person.

  • The scammer will encourage secrecy and try to isolate you from friends and family.

  • Their online profile and what they tell you don’t add up.

  • They ask you for money either directly or more subtly.


6 common romance scam scenarios

After the scammer has spent time gaining your trust, they might have one of these reasons for requesting your money:

  1. They tell you that they’ve just made a huge profit from a high return, low-risk investment. The scammer persuades you to go all in with this investment – it worked out well for them, after all.

  2. After a few months, the scammer might say they’re ready to move in with you and need money for a home deposit or a rental bond.

  3. They send you items or money that they need you to send elsewhere. This is to cover up criminal activity.

  4. The person you’re talking to is living in a different country. They really want to see you in person, but they don’t have the money for it. So, they ask you to send some across. You send them the money, but they never show up.

  5. They’ve revealed that they’re evading prosecution in another country and need your financial support to keep them out of trouble.

  6. They have a relative that’s unwell. They don’t have the money to cover the medical bills, so they ask for your help.


How to stay safe when dating online

If you’re wanting to explore the world of online dating and stay safe from romance scams, here are a few tips that you can follow:

  • Chatting with a person who might be your one true love can be exciting. But don’t dive headfirst into the relationship. Take a moment to ask questions to verify their identity. If they’re dodging your questions, then do some investigating of your own – what social media do they have? Can you reverse image search their profile picture? Doing your due diligence now can protect you from a broken heart and lost money later.

  • Never feel pressured into sending money to someone – even if it’s someone who claims to love you. Stop and think twice before acting, especially when your hard-earned money is involved.

  • Don’t share any personal information with anyone. This includes your passwords, PINs, bank account information and more.


What can you do if you think you’ve been scammed?

First of all, don’t blame yourself. Romance scams can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender or background.

  • If you’ve shared financial information or transferred money, notify your bank immediately. If you’re an ANZ customer, contact us immediately and report it.

  • If you shared credit card details, block or cancel those cards immediately. If your cards are with ANZ, you can do this through the app. Learn more.

  • Report the account to the dating app and/or the messaging app you used to communicate with the scammer. 


Who can you contact if you’ve been scammed?

  • Report the scam to the Police through the Australian Signals Directorate’s ReportCyber portal. This resource is there for reports of scams where money or personal information has been lost.

  • Contact the Australian Cyber Security hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1300 CYBER1 (or 1300 292 371).

  • Help others by reporting to Scamwatch  to help them prevent future losses, monitor trends and educate the population about emerging threats.

  • You can also contact IDCare, a not-for-profit organisation that provides support to those experiencing identity and cyber security concerns.
Swiping right? Here’s how to stay safe from romance scams
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This information seeks to raise awareness and provides general information only. It may be necessary or appropriate  to ensure that measures are taken in addition to, or in substitution for, the measures presented having regard to your particular personal or business circumstances.