Dating and romance scams

The Australian Cyber Security Centre provides you with up-to-date advice on current threats and vulnerabilities, as well as guidance on mitigation and cyber security best practice.

The below is based primarily on the advice of the NSW Police.

What are dating and romance scams?

Scammers often approach their victims on legitimate dating websites before attempting to move the ‘relationship’ away from the safeguards that these sites put in place, for example, by communicating through other methods such as email, where they can more easily manipulate victims.

Scammers also target victims through social networking sites, where they ‘friend’ them and then express shared interests based on personal information taken from the victim’s profile.

The scammer develops a strong connection with the victim before asking for money to help cover costs associated with a supposed illness, injury, family crisis, or travel, or to pursue a business or investment opportunity.

Scammers may also ask for photos or video of a personal nature, for blackmail use later.

How do I recover from a dating and romance scam?

  • If you think you have been scammed, report it to the website, app or social media site where the scammer first approached you. Let them know the scammer’s profile name and any other details that may help them to stop others being scammed.

  • If you think you have provided your bank account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

  • Report scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.

  • For image-based abuse, contact your local police station or the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

How do I prevent a dating and romance scam?

Trust your gut: If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t right.

Many of our romance victims who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars say they had that feeling right at the beginning when they were first asked for money, that something wasn’t quite right. But because they want to trust that person they have spent time getting to know online they ignore that feeling. And it’s this feeling we want people to trust,’ says Griffith University criminologist Dr Jacqueline Drew.

Keep your personal details personal: Never share personal information or photos with someone you don’t know and trust—especially photos or webcam calls of a private nature. There have been reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.

Watch out: If an online admirer asks to communicate with you outside the dating website, such as through a private email address or over the phone, watch out: they could be trying to avoid detection. If you are considering meeting in person, choose a public place and let family or friends know where you are at all times.

Search: Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided. Scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.

Think twice: Never send money to someone you’ve met online, especially via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer; it’s rare to recover money sent this way.

The ACCC also provides guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

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