Scammers are attacking the victim’s heart and pocket

By Juliano Oliveira

The new strategy applied by scammers is hooking the hearts of lovers and the pocket of the unsuspecting.

It starts when these groups come up with plans to make their target fall in love with the profile they have created on dating websites and apps. It is a matter of days for the fake user profess their love for the victim.

The distance, so, becomes a hindrance. Scammers will ask the victim to send money or provide financial aid so they can travel to meet them.

If the person sends money, the scammer will ask for more, and if they don’t, the fake profile will start to become aggressive online or manipulate the victim through guilt.

“We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Don’t give out personal information, including your financial details, to anybody you haven’t met in person, no matter who they say they are, and don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting.”

“If you become concerned by the conversation, such as if the person is asking for ‘favours’ or money, cease communication,” Ms Rickard said.

The Office of Fair Trading’s tips to protect yourself from romance scams include:

  • always be cautious of people you meet online
  • never send money to someone you haven’t met in person
  • be wary if someone tries to move communications away from the dating website or app to another platform like email, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp
  • be alert to inconsistencies in their stories
  • be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners as scammers are known to blackmail their victims using compromising material.

Almost 4,000 dating and romance scams were reported last year, with losses of more than $28.6 million. Around 37.5%% of reports resulted in a loss, with an average loss of more than $19,000.

A new trend emerging in 2019 was scammers increasingly turning to apps like Google Hangouts, or online games such as Words with Friends and Scrabble to con their victims.

Victims can also report a scam to the ACCC through Scamwatch, which offers further information on where to get help, and how to protect yourself from scams.