Breaking hearts and bank accounts, the award goes to Romance Scams. Romance scams are devastating not only emotionally but financially! Scammers take advantage of individuals looking for partnership, typically by the means of online dating websites or social media. This is also known as “catfishing”. They count on emotional triggers to get their victims to send them money, gifts or even personal details like banking details which the scammer will use to their advantage.
Scammers typically create fake online profiles designed to lure in victims. They may use a fictional name, or falsely take on the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working abroad.
The scammer finds their victim then works to establish a close relationship. Dating and romance scammers will express strong emotions in a relatively short period of time. They often claim to be from Australia or another western country, but travelling or working overseas.
Once they have gained their victim’s trust, a minimal amount of money is requested. If they get their victim to send money, then the scammer continues to request for money and possibly even promise to repay. They may even have a teammate impersonate a doctor or a nurse demanding to be paid after a medical emergency, pose as work associates or friends to whom the victim can send the money. Young women pretend to be teenage daughters, eager to call the victim “Mom” – all in the goal of keeping their victim convinced and emotionally involved. The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you, but cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses.
This continues until the scammer is exposed or the victim is not able to provide any more money.
- Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, someone you have only talked to online or via text messages.
- 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 don’t know or trust.
- Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is.
- Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
- Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.
- 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.