With Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping
There are many success stories of people who’ve met through dating websites or apps and fallen in love but unfortunately there are also some very sad stories where people have fallen victim to romance scams.
In 2019 Australians reported romance scam losses of more than $28 million, to the ACCC’s Scamwatch. Australia’s consumer protection agencies are warning people to never send money to someone they haven’t met in person, and to be aware of the signs of a romance scam.
Scammers can spend many months sending messages declaring their love and building up trust with a person before asking for money. Romance scammers might say their money is stuck in a legal problem or they have a sick relative and they need funds to cover the medical costs.
Victims are often prepared to invest in the ‘relationship’ and might send money towards an airfare believing that the love-interest will come and see them. But while the victim is feeling loved-up, the scammer ends up being cashed-up.
Tips to avoid romance scams:
- Do a Google Image search or TinEye reverse image search using the person’s photos to check if a profile is real.
- Be wary if the person you’ve met online quickly wants to move communications away from the dating website or app to another communication channel such as email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber.
- If there’s no way that you can meet them in person without you having to send them money, and they make excuses about why they can’t travel to see you, it is usually a scam.
Many romance scam victims not only lose money, but they also experience fraud – for example they discover new mobile phone accounts have been set up in their name, or their superannuation account has been accessed.
Anyone who has given bank account details to scammers should contact their bank or financial institution ASAP. Meanwhile IDCARE is a free government-funded service to support identity theft victims and reduce further damage. Visit www.idcare.org or call 1300 IDCARE (432273).