Beware of social media scammers looking for love this Valentine's Day
Social media is now the most common way dating and romance scammers target victims.
According to Scamwatch, in 2017:
- Australians lost over $20.5 million to dating and romance scams, with more than 3700 reports.
- People lost $9.7 million to dating and romance scams through social media—an increase of nearly 30% compared to 2016.
- Women lost nearly twice as much money as men.
- People aged 45 and over were most likely to be targeted.
How the scams work
Scammers create fake online profiles, often of a trusted person such as military personnel, an aid worker or another professional working overseas, and try to manipulate you into giving them money, gifts or personal details.
Typically, scammers will:
- Express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time.
- Suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel such as phone, email or instant messaging.
- Go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, by showering you with loving words, sharing 'personal information' and even sending you gifts.
Scammers may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime, and even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come.
Once they have gained your trust and your defences are down, they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. Often they will tell you it's for a personal emergency, like a sick family member, or funds to come and visit you.
Once they receive money they will continually ask for more.
Protect yourself, your money and your heart
Before you give your heart to someone online, consider the following advice to stay safe from romance scams:
- Always consider the possibility your online friend may not be genuine, and try to remove the emotion from your decision making, no matter how caring or persistent they are.
- Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you haven't met in person, don't actually know or trust.
- Do an image search of your admirer to help work out if they really are who they say they are.
- Be alert to things like unusual spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories, and excuses such as their camera never working when you try to Skype each other.
- Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos, especially with people you've never met. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
- If you agree to meet someone, tell family and friends where you are going. We strongly recommend you do not travel overseas to meet someone for the first time.
- Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
Think you've been scammed?
If you think you've been scammed, report it to the website, app, or social media site where the scammer first approached you. Tell them 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 account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
You can also report it to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).
For more information on romance and dating scams, visit the Scamwatch website.