Online Dating: Avoiding Scams
Internet dating can be a great way to meet compatible partners, start relationships and even find love. You can use online sites, apps, or social media. However, people called ‘scammers’ take advantage of online dating, by creating fake profiles and pretending to be looking for love.
Scammers will most often contact through dating websites, but also reach out using social media, email, or even the telephone. Their fake profiles are designed to be appealing. They either create an entirely fake profile with a false name and a photograph found online, or they falsely use the identities of real military personnel or professionals working overseas. They will often claim they are from Australia, but travelling or working overseas.
Scammers will quickly tell you how much they love you, or have strong feelings for you. They will form an emotional attachment with you. They will often suggest you move your relationship off the dating website, and talk privately using email, instant messaging, or phone. Then, after gaining your trust (often after weeks, months, or even years) they will pull at your heart strings. Make you feel sorry for them by using fictional stories about being in a difficult situation and telling you how much they need money (e.g. hospital bills, travel).
Why go to all of this effort pretending and playing tricks? They want to steal your money. Repeatedly.
Who does these scams?
Most of these scammers are located overseas. Regardless of the scammers actual gender, they will pretend to be both males and females. They are running numerous scams at a time and they set up their profiles to be vague so that many people will respond. Some will buy and send you gifts, and make promises to come to meet you. However, they have no interest in a relationship with you, they have no intention of coming to meet you. It sounds cold and cruel, given their words can often be warm and convincing. But the truth is, they’re aim in talking to you is purely financial.
What are the warning signs of a scammer?
Whenever you are talking to someone online who is seeking romance or dating, Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they have a vague profile?
- Are they asking you to move off the dating site to private messaging to talk?
- Did they tell you they love you before you’ve even met in real life?
- Did they tell an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or bank account/credit card details?
- Do they keep avoiding questions, giving vague and non-specific responses?
- Are their messages to you often vague, poorly written, or sometimes addressed to the wrong name?
- Did they ask to “borrow” money from you?
- If you refused to send money, or did not do it straight away, did they become more desperate and try and guilt you into sending money?
- If you did send money, did they ask you to send more?
- Do they always have an excuse for why they cannot travel to meet you, and why they need more money?
How to protect yourself?
Be cautious. Even if these warning signs don’t appear, be alert. Be prepared when online dating that you may be talking to a scammer. Do an image search online of your admirer, just to make sure they are not lying about who they say they are. You can do this using TinEye or Google Images.
Never send money, credit card details, account details, or personal documents (even copies) to someone you don’t know, trust, and who you have not met face-to-face. Be particularly weary if they ask for payment through money order, wire transfer, international fund transfer. If your online admirer asks for money, no matter what the reason is, ask yourself: ‘Do I really know who I’m dealing with?’
Be careful telling admirers intimate or personal details until you meet. Be careful about sharing personal photos or videos with your admirer until you have met.
If you are going to meet your admirer, you should always tell someone like family or friends before you go. If you do travel overseas to meet, make sure your first meeting takes place in a public place. Keep in regular contact with someone back home, and they know where the meeting will take place.
*WARNING: In some instances, people who have travelled overseas to meet their partner have been kidnapped and held to ransom.
Where to go if you have been scammed?
Many people are too embarrassed to admit to being scammed. However, the truth is scamming affects a lot of Australian’s, both male and female, of different sexual orientations. Scammers are very good at building emotional attachments over a period of time. So if you are dating online, be aware of the warning signs.
If you think you have been scammed, you should:
- Report it to the website or social media site the scammer first approached you through.
- Contact your bank immediately if you gave any account details or credit card details to the scammer.
- Report the scammer to ScamWatch – Report A Scam
For more information:
- Types of Scams, Scam Watch, www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams. Read about different types of scams.
- Consumers with a Disability – Be on guard against scammers trying to take advantage of you, Scam Watch, 2014, www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/consumers-with-a-disability-–-be-on-guard-against-scammers-trying-to-take-advantage-of-you. News alert on consumers with disability being scammed and how to be prepared.
- Romance Scams , Australian Bankers Association, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQLMexuA0aU&feature=youtu.be. Find out how to avoid the traps and prevent falling victim.
- Dating and Romance Scams: Snapshot 2015, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), http://www.accc.gov.au/sites/www.accc.gov.au/files/dating-romance-scams-infographic-2015.png. Infographic of statistics on dating scams.