In 2020, Scamwatch received a record-breaking $37 million in reports from Australians for romance and dating scams. With many victims not reporting that the have been scammed, the losses are believed to be much, much higher. Scammers have many means to attract their victims and are using dating apps to lure victims into investment scams and other monetary scams.
Romance baiting is just one technique used and involves scammers joining and meeting people on dating apps and then from there, they usually move their communications to encrypted chat sites. Once they have formed a relationship with the victim, the scammer will begin asking questions about finances, with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to join in on an investment opportunity. Scamwatch received over 400 reports last year of romance baiting scams. The majority of these involved cryptocurrency investment scams and totalled over $15.2 million in losses.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said “These scams prey on people seeking connection and can leave victims with significant financial losses and emotional distress. While traditional dating and romance scams tend to target older Australians, almost half of all losses to romance baiting scams come from people under the age of 35.”
Advice from Ms Rickard included “Don’t take financial advice from someone you met on an app and never give financial or personal details to someone you’ve only met online. If you match with someone on a dating app, get to know them in the app as you have more protections than if you move to a different chat site.”
Love bombing is common among scammers and is a technique where the scammer will contact the victims often several times a day with messages of their devoted love. When the victims is showcasing feelings in return, the scammers will often encourage them to transfer a relatively small amount of money as proof that the investment is real and very easy. The scammers will then ask the victims to top up their accounts for increased profits and when they run out of money or won’t transfer any more money, the scammer ceases communication.
To help prevent this from happening to you, there are a few simple things you can do starting with a search of the name and photo of the person you are communicating with to see if there are any records of that name being used in a scam. You can also search with phrases that are being used (scammers often use the same phrases over and over with multiple people) and always remember that you are in control and you can stop communication at any time. If you are feeling pressured to give money or personal information, speak to Scamwatch.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of romance baiting, make sure it is reported to Scamwatch. This may in-turn help other people from being scammed by the same person. For example, if a potential scammer on a dating app is reported and found, the profile can then be removed. Stopping other potential victims who may also be communicating with the scammer on the same app from being scammed themselves. You should also contact your bank to let them know and contact the dating platform so they are also aware of the scammer who is trolling their app.
Stay tuned for more information over the coming weeks on investment scams. In 2020, there was a massive 7,314 reports of investment scams with losses totalling over $66 million. Source: ACCC