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Dating & romance

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.

How this scam works

Dating and romance scams often take place 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’.

Clues for spotting fake profiles iconClues for spotting fake documents icon

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 of time, and will suggest you move the relationship away 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 travelling or working overseas.

Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as showering you with loving words, sharing ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually 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 the money for some sort of 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 cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses.

Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers and 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 yourself and send them somewhere. You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it to someone else.

Warning - the above scenarios are very likely to be forms of money laundering which is a criminal offence. Never agree to transfer money for someone else.

Sometimes the scammer will tell you about a large amount of money or gold they need to transfer out of their country, and offer you a share of it. They will tell you they need your money to cover administrative fees or taxes.

Dating and romance scammers can also pose a risk to your personal safety as they are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers may attempt to lure their victims overseas, putting you in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.

Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone you thought loved you.

List of Scams

  • RobertandLisaScamVictim
    Robert and Lisa

     Robert has some advice for other people who have established an online relationship with someone who is asking for money.

  • gerryjorissen
    Winston and Gerry

    In January 2014, 59-year-old Winston saw a ‘home for sale’ sign and phoned a number, which belonged to Gerry Jorissen. That call would change Winston’s life, and not in a good way…

  • pam_romano_box
    Pam and Romano

    When Pam met Romano on an online dating website, her life changed drastically. Only not in the way she'd hoped. What seemed like the beginings of a dream relationship quickly turned into a nightmare, when over the course of a few months Pam lost over $100,000, and Romano disappeared forever.

  • sunbird
    Operation/Project Sunbird

    Project Sunbird is a joint anti-fraud initiative between WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Consumer Protection, looking at money being sent from Western Australia to African countries such as Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo.

    When the financial intelligence data is analysed, non-fraudulent money transfers e.g. for business reasons or by Africans in WA to relatives back home, are eliminated. Those left are identified as possible fraud victims and regrettably, the majority of the time it’s people in fake relationships with someone they met on the internet and have never seen face-to-face.

  • online_dating_scam
    Victim Story - Jenny and ?

     50-year-old Jenny lost a six figure sum in six weeks after getting caught up in a romance fraud in late 2013.

  • tracy_icon
    Tracey and 'Ted Hamilton'

    Tracey thought she'd met the man of her dreams. She couldn't have been more wrong... courtesy of That's Life! Magazine.

  • PaulChester_logo
    Paul and 'Sarah'

    47-year-old Paul from East Bunbury was defrauded out of $10,000 over several months after responding to a Facebook friend request from organised criminals posing as a female wanting a romantic relationship.

  • NigerianCollaboration_JetteJacobs
    Death of WA romance fraud victim

    Nigerian authorities have arrested a man who allegedly defrauded the late Jette Jacobs from WA in a romance scam.

  • Dom Blackshaw from WA Police Fraud Squad, relationship fraud victims Paul and Wendy and Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll
    $4.5 million heartbreaking fraud losses

    Breaking hearts and bank balances – organised criminals have defrauded West Australians out of at least $4.5million after starting relationships with victims online, according to figures compiled over the six months since August 2012.

  • two red love hearts with computer mouse
    Adam and Evelyn

    Listen to Adam's story about how he met (as was conned) by Evelyn.

  • Red love heard on keyboard
    Wendy and 'John'

    Listen to Wendy's story about how her long distance relationship with 'John' saw her lose $90,000.


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