While there are many success stories of people falling in love after meeting online, there are also some very sad tales involving victims of romance scams.
Australians reported losing more than $38 million to romance scammers in 2020, the majority of which was lost through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. In WA last year, 72 victims reported losing $2.17 million – an average loss of $30,000 each.
These figures have prompted consumer protection agencies across Australia to remind people to be cautious and that victims aren’t just those who are actively seeking a partner – it could be you, a friend or family member.
Romance scammers will often spend months building up trust before asking for money from their victim, who may agree to send funds because they feel the need is genuine or believe it will be used to buy an airfare so they love-interest can travel to meet them.
But while the victim is feeling loved-up, the scammer becomes cashed-up.
Often these people will use stock images, or images they’ve taken from someone else’s social media, so before engaging online it’s important to do a reverse-image search via Google or TinEye.
Always be wary if the person you’ve met online quickly wants to move communications away from the dating website or app and onto another platform, such as email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber.
If they ask for money, but won’t meet in person, that’s a big red flag – never give money to someone you haven’t met in person.
It’s important be careful about the personal information you share, as many romance scam victims not only lose money, but they can also experience fraud, such as discovering new mobile phone accounts set up in their name, or that their superannuation account has been accessed.
If bank account details have already been sent to a scammer, contact your financial institution as soon as possible to stop any further losses.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection