Romance Scams

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Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media, by pretending to be prospective companions.  They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

Learn how we can help.

What Is A Romance Scam?

Dating and romance scams often occur through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact.
They have even been known to telephone their victims as a first introduction. These scams are also known as ‘catfishing’.

Scammers typically create fake online profiles designed to lure you in. 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.

Dating and romance scammers will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period. They suggest you move the relationship from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. They often claim to be from Australia or another Western country but currently travel or work overseas.

Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust by showering you with loving words, sharing ‘personal information’, and even sending you gifts.

They may take months to build what feels like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you but have yet to come.

Once they have gained your trust and your defences are down, they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. They may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature.

Often the scammer will pretend to need money for a personal emergency. For example, they may claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention, such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck, such as a failed business or mugging in the street. The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you but can only afford it if you can lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses.

Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers or mobile phones and ask you to resend them somewhere. They will invent some reason why they need you to send the goods, but this is just a way for them to cover up their criminal activity. Alternatively, they may ask you to buy the goods and send them somewhere. You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and transfer it to someone else.

How to spot a Romance scam

Know the signs and learn how to advise family and friends. Learn more about romance scams.

Many romance scammers have started to use their fake romantic connection to encourage victims to invest money into assets like cryptocurrency. This is a form of investment scam; find out more in our investment scams article.

They come on hot and heavy

You've met someone online, and after just a few messages, they profess strong feelings for you and ask to chat with you privately. If you meet on a dating site, they will try and move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email.

They are working or living overseas

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. Often claiming to be from Australia or another Western country but currently travel or work overseas.

The description of themselves doesn't match their profile

Their profile on the dating website or their Facebook page is inconsistent with what they tell you. For example, their profile picture looks different to their description of themselves, or they say they are university educated but their English is poor.

They ask you for money

After gaining your trust – often waiting weeks, months or even years –they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details. Their messages are often poorly written, vague and escalate quickly from introduction to love.

They become desperate and have lots of excuses

If you don't send money immediately, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you send money, they continue asking you to send more. They don't keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can't travel to meet you and why they always need more money.

So, what can you do?

How can you protect your heart and and your money from romance scammers. 

Take Your Time

Consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision-making no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is. Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.

Check Their Details

Sign up here, give us their details and we will contact them and check their details for you. We can validate the person is who they say they are and the bank details are correct. Generally, scammers use fictitious names and once your money is in their account, it's gone!

Be Cautious

Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material. If you agree to meet a prospective partner in person, tell family and friends where you are going. Scamwatch strongly recommends not travelling overseas to meet someone you have never met. Consider carefully the advice on before making any plans.

Don't feel pressured to do anything

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 - hang up or delete the email or message. Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence. Don't feel pressured to do anything.

been scammed. Here's What to do:

If you have recently lost money or given out your personal information to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to help protect you from any further losses. 

Contact your bank or financial Institution

You should contact your financial institution immediately if you’ve sent money or shared your bank account details with a scammer. They may be able to stop the transaction and/or close your account.

Contact IDCare

Get in touch with IDCare, - Australia and New Zealand's counselling and support service to assist Australians impacted by scams, identity theft and cyber-crimes. IDCare is a free, not-for-profit service for all Australians.

Report the scam to authorities

It’s best to report your scam to the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Reports may be referred to the police for possible investigation.

Seek Support

It can be very stressful and emotionally draining, so please seek help. You can talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust. Contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160. IDCARE is a free, government-funded service that supports victims of identity crime.

Get Securely's help today.

Don’t let them break your heart and your wallet. We can make sure the person is who they say they.