It's a new year and a new opportunity to get on top of scammers and their devious innovations.
This month our scam alert focuses on romance scams, especially leading up to valentines day in February.
It's important to remember that scammers use dating or friendship to win your trust and get your money. They go to great lengths to convince you the relationship is real and trick you to give them money. Scammers expressing love and care or merely just friendship can leave you with a broken heart and an empty pocket!
The National Anti-Scam centre's Scamwatch website provides some very useful information on romance scams.
How the scam works
Scammers approach you on social media, dating or gaming apps and websites, or they might send you a text message or email and start a conversation. They build fake profiles and identities, and hide behind them when communicating to you. They make you feel special, tell you that you can rely on and trust them and make you believe the 'relationship' is real.
Once they build your trust, which they sometimes take months or years to do, they suddenly have an ‘emergency’ and ask you to give them products or money to help them. They may even ask you to do things for them, like set up accounts or transfer money they give you.
What to look out for?
- They express strong feelings quickly and the relationship moves fast. You are made to feel special quickly.
- Their online profile doesn’t match what they tell you about themselves.
- Romance scammers will encourage secrecy and will influence you to only trust them. They may try to isolate you from your family and friends.
- They talk about money or investments. They might say they know about cryptocurrency and offer to teach you.
- They may only send you previously taken photos
- There will always be an excuse why they can’t meet you in person or show themselves on camera. They say they live overseas or somewhere remote, or their technology isn’t working and given an excuse.
How can you protect yourself?
Check the person is who they say they are:
- Take things slowly. Ask lots of questions and watch for things that don’t add up
- Search for the their name along with the word ‘scam’ in a search, and look for websites about romance scams in the results.
Be careful what you share with people you met or came in to contact recently:
- Be careful of what you share about yourself online. Scammers can use information about your hobbies, job or family to target you or steal your details to make up a fake identity
- Don’t keep your online relationship a secret. Tell family and friends about your relationship. Some warning signs can be more obvious to them than you.
- Never send intimate pictures or videos of yourself, especially to people you don’t know. Scammers use these to blackmail people.
Never send or transfer money to a person you have not met in person:
- If your online connection asks you for money, they are likely a scammer. Stop contact right away and seek support.
- Do not send money, card or bank details or important identity documents like your passport to someone you’ve only met online - no matter how long you’ve been messaging them.
- Never agree to transfer money for someone else. This is may be money laundering and being involved in it is a criminal offence.
Top tips for avoiding scams in general
- STOP – take your time before providing any personal information.
- THINK – ask yourself if the message could be fake?
- PROTECT – act quickly if something feels wrong.
To find out more about romance scams, visit Scam Romance scams | Scamwatch and stay informed.
Be alert and stay safe!