Online dating is now one of the most popular ways to meet a potential partner in Australia. In 2022, more than 3.2 million Australians used dating apps or visited online dating sites. Some of the most popular ones are eHarmony, Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Happn, Grindr and Plenty of Fish.
While most people who use dating apps are looking for a genuine connection, there are some who have more sinister intentions. Australians lost $40.5 million to dating and romance scams in 2022, with reports to Scamwatch up 8% on 2021 figures. Almost half of these involved scammers with fake profiles contacting their victims via mobile apps and social media.
So, if you dabble in online dating, here are some tips on how to spot a romance scam and avoid losing your money and your heart.
Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating apps and websites or message you through social media to gain your affection and trust. They are keen to develop an ongoing relationship with you and quickly make you feel special. The relationship moves fast, they play on your emotions, try to make you feel sorry for them, then ask you for money.
eSafety Australia defines catfishing as: “when someone pretends to be someone, they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else”.
You would be surprised at how easy it is to pretend to be someone else online and convince others as well. These scammers will:
Romance scammers tend to:
If a match seems too good to be true, be wary, and follow these steps:
You may receive a random message on Facebook Messenger or Instagram from someone you don’t know. They seem friendly and keen to start a conversation. You might be flattered, as their profile pic is of someone really good looking.
They may ask where you’re located. They’ll talk about how they feel a connection with you or start using words like “love” very quickly. They will want to chat outside of the app via email, text, phone or WhatsApp.
Their profile information seems a bit light on detail. They could be posing as if they’re in the military or travelling overseas to ensure they have plenty of excuses to not meet up with you in person.
Your typical online romance scam builds towards an urgent request for money, but catfishing can just be about psychological manipulation or game-playing.
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