I have no idea why I downloaded a dating app again. I’d just finished watching The Tinder Swindler on Netflix and reading about a woman from New Zealand who’d fallen prey to a scammer who apparently had been targeting lonely women around the world for years.
Perhaps I wanted to flirt with danger as well as flirt with a stranger. Would I be attractive enough to entice a scammer? Bring it on.
But no. All I got was Geoff, 62, telling me, in his opening message, even before we matched, that he needed an operation on his leg, wasn’t serious, but he was looking for a caring woman. Was I interested? In being a nurse? No. And not in you either, Geoff. I deleted the app.
It’s been a while since I was hit up by a scammer. Perhaps they can sense my cynicism, or my keen eye for the truth (decades in journalism is meant to hone that apparently).
Years ago I met the perfect man. He was Danish, athletic, a widowed father who loved his son dearly, an orthopedic surgeon who was doing non-profit work in Syria. We chatted for a while, every red flag waving in my face. I knew he wasn’t real but it was more fun than Candy Crush so I kept it going for a while.
He’d send me photos of teddy bears holding roses, of kittens with big eyes declaring true love. His contract in Syria was soon up and he was ready to relocate to Australia, just for me. I got bored eventually and blocked him. Perhaps his contract really did finish up, and he went back to reconstructing knees in Copenhagen. But I doubt it.
It’s easy to dismiss stories such as that told by “Joanne” last week. A 50-something New Zealand woman, Joanne had lived alone for many years before she met “Dale” on Tinder. He looked like a “genuine nice guy”, she said in reports.
He spun her all the lines about being her prince charming, called her sugar pie, said he wanted a woman who would be his best friend and partner in everything. “I’m talking about a relationship where we would continue to love each other more, as the days pass by, till we can’t make love anymore and all we do is play bingo.”
But soon the talk turned to money and how he needed Joanne to help him. His business was failing, yada, yada, yada and she sent him $500,000.
He disappeared soon after. She hired a private investigator and the scam was revealed. More women have since come forward, scammed by the same man.
In 2021 there were 3400 reported romance scams in Australia, with victims losing $56 million, according to Scamwatch.
Men are just as likely as women to be scammed, people aged 45-54 report the most scams. After investment scams, dating and romance scams lose the most amount of money, ahead of false billing and identity theft.
Scamwatch offers some useful tips on how to spot romance scams. But here’s my advice.
Trust your gut. You’re not stupid. We’ve all been burnt. Why else would we be on the apps at 50? Sure, every potential partner will have at least one red flag but when it’s a whole collection of them, something is probably up.
Scammers love to ask you lots of questions but they don’t like answering yours. While it’s flattering to be asked about yourself, surely they would be keen to talk about their exciting lives? They’re doctors and engineers, working in top-secret jobs they can’t tell you much about, in exotic locations around the world. Tell me all about it, please. But they never do.
When your instinct tells you something is up, just block them. Unless you’re feeling particularly cruel. And then you can toy with them. But be better than me and just block them.
Remain optimistic, love is out there. I think.
It’s easy to label people who get hit up by romance scammers as desperate and lonely and stupid. And yes, they probably are at least one of those things.
I know I am a couple, which ones vary depending on the occasion, but this will never happen to me.
As my nanna used to say, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.