Australians are being warned about a rise in romance scams, which prey on vulnerable people who may be looking for a partner.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned it has seen reports of a scam involving a Korean woman who claims she is travelling around the country.
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“Be wary of WhatsApp messages from a Korean girl claiming to be travelling around Australia seeking a relationship,” it warned.
“It’s a scam. The conversation eventually leads to a cryptocurrency investment scam.”
The consumer watchdog added anyone who receives this text should ignore it, block the number and delete the message.
In these scams, the romance scammer will pose as someone looking for a relationship and start up conversations with an unsuspecting person.
The scammers will shower the victim with flattery and confess their love for them.
However, once the victim has been roped in, the scammer will often make up a story as to why they can’t meet in person.
The scammer will then ask for money.
Rise in romance scams
Bank of Queensland said it is also seeing a rise in these types of scams.
“These scams happen more and more often with initial contact from a scammer occurring on every dating site you can think of, social media sites and even gaming portals,” spokeperson Ben Griffin said.
“The biggest red flags are rapid declarations of love and affection; they can be incredibly persuasive and will prey on emotional triggers. The scammers are also never available in person, but keep victims hopeful with plans of finally meeting.
“For those who fall victim, it is really devastating. Some of the cases we see have taken place over months or even years. Not only have these victims lost their money, but they also feel the heartbreak of a false connection.”
In 2021 alone, more than 3400 dating and romance scams were reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Australian Federal Police cybercrime operations commander Chris Goldsmid said criminals often invested a significant amount of time – sometimes years – building what appears to be a “legitimate relationship with their victim”.
“They will express their love for the victim and, in some cases, promise marriage but will often have a complicated story about why they cannot meet in person,” he said.
“Anyone can be a target, and they will use a range of extravagant excuses to pull on their victim’s heartstrings.
“Romance scams are a common method for criminals to enlist money mules because they put pressure on them emotionally.”