Romance scams run rife in Australia, with ScamWatch estimating Australians have lost nearly $30 million in 2022 alone. One woman, from Melbourne, lost around $11,000 to a man who appeared to mimic the actions of the notorious Tinder Swindler.
Referring to the woman as Kate (not her real name), 9News says she met her prospective beau, Gabriel, on online dating site Zoosk. This was after she’d been talking to another man on the same dating site who was clearly just out to scam her.
Gabriel, who claimed he was an engineer from France but now found himself living in Melbourne, turned on his French charm to woo Kate, and the pair spent months talking about their lives and getting to know each other on a deeper level. Gabriel wanted to take things to the next level and move their conversation off of Zoosk and onto WhatsApp, but, not wanting to fall foul to another potential scam, Kate did her homework to find Gabriel on Facebook.
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Gabriel had clearly also done his homework too, and he expected Kate and whoever else he would manage to scam to search for him elsewhere online. So, he’d hacked into the Facebook account of the man he was impersonating, so it appeared the images he’d sent to Kate were in fact real and went back for years.
Believing he now had Kate where he wanted her, Gabriel then went about scamming her out of money. Previously claiming that he had two daughters and that his wife has passed away when they were young, Gabriel said he needed money once he’d flown back to London, where his daughters were allegedly staying with his mother and had to undergo surgery, because his bank put a block on his account.
He then asked for $5,000 to pay for tickets for himself and his two daughters to fly back to Australia, so that the three of them could spend Christmas with Kate. She sent him the money as cryptocurrency, which she’d been convinced to buy. Gabriel then said he got stuck in Singapore as his daughter had caught Covid, so he then needed more money to get more plane tickets back to Australia.
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Convinced he was actually coming, Kate waited at the airport for him to arrive, but he never showed. Not done scamming Kate out of money, Gabriel then claimed he’d been held up at customs at Melbourne Airport, where he was being asked for another $5,000 in tax for an antique piece of jewellery. Despite having her doubts, Kate still believed Gabriel was real and that he genuinely needed the money, so she sent another $1,750 to a bank account she was told belonged to a customs agent.
Fortunately, Kate’s bank picked up the transaction and contacted her to tell her the account she was depositing into had been picked up for fraudulent activity in the past, so put a halt on it. She says she still lost around $11,000 sending money to Gabriel and claimed it to be “a kick in the guts.”
Kate is by no means alone in her story of sending money to potential romantic partners but it perfectly highlights just how easy it can be to be convinced by someone to send them money, even if you think you’ve got your head screwed on.
The 7th – 11th November is Scams Awareness Week in Australia, which ScamWatch says is to encourage “you to learn ways to identify scams and take the time to check whether an offer or contact is genuine before you act on it.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Council says the sum of total losses in Australia as of August 2022 is over $381 million, a figure that already dwarves the $324 million figure reported in total losses in 2021. ScamWatch adds that we can expect the figure to actually be higher as “around one third of people who are scammed never tell anyone.”
If you’ve fallen foul to an online scam, or you want to know some of the warning signs to look out for, you can find all the information you need on the ACCC website.