February 14th marks a day of celebration for love, but there’s nothing romantic about falling for a scam. This article highlights just how common romance scams are, some of the red flags for when someone is a little too friendly online, and what to do if you believe you, or a loved one, have fallen victim.
In 2022 alone, 32% of reported dating and romance scams involved financial losses. Scammers pulled at the heartstrings, with over $40 million dollars lost from vulnerable Australians.
This loss predominantly occurred over social media, though other mobile applications, including dating apps, saw a high number of scam reports. Keep in mind, research has shown that only about 13% of scam victims actually report to Scamwatch, so these figures could be significantly higher.
Red Flags for Online Romance
The major exposed weakness of victims of romance scams is the fact that they’re looking for love. Unfortunately, there are a few ways in which romance scammers succeed in blurring the lines between showing love and taking advantage of victims online:
- ‘Love bombing’ is when someone professes love and shows high levels of affection exceptionally quickly. This type of behaviour is a red flag, especially in the context of someone using love bombing in conjunction with elaborate stories to influence the victim to send money, gifts, or financial information over the internet. Sorry babe, it’s not love, it’s a scam.
- ‘Romance baiting’ is when someone develops a connection online and offers to show the victim how to invest (often in cryptocurrency). This type of behaviour is a red flag as it’s not only a romance scam, but is also an investment scam, because financial advice should not be given over a dating app.
- ‘Catfishing’ is when someone creates a false identity online to defraud or scam someone else. For example, the scammer may create fake backgrounds, jobs, or friends to trick victims into sending money, gifts, or intimate material. Love bombing and romance baiting usually involve catfishing. This type of behaviour is a red flag, which may be uncovered through constant excuses not to meet in person or use video functions.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
As well as looking out for red flags, it is advisable for those looking for love online to steer clear from communicating outside of apps. If you are under the impression your online love interest could be a scammer, you can report their account which may result in its removal. This will also benefit others on the app who are also in contact with the scammer.
Victims who have released any financial information or engaged in any financial choices due to the influence of the scammer should contact their banking institution as soon as possible.
Romance scams can also cause severe emotional harm. If you or a loved one is struggling with the emotional distress of scamming, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.