Avoid online dating scams

Online dating can be a great way to meet that special someone, but buyer beware, your online honey might be the face of a nasty scam.

Online dating scams cost Australians almost $25 million in 2013 and approximately one in ten dating profiles posted online are considered to be a scam.

So, how can you avoid being scammed? A good rule of thumb is; if you haven’t met the person face-to-face, don’t send them money for any reason. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), most criminal groups use a variation of the same scam to target online daters. “Scammers spend time grooming their victims with techniques such as professing their emotional commitment or love and sharing false personal stories” an ACCC spokeswoman said.

It is common for a scammer to organise a meeting with you, only to send a message at the last minute claiming an accident or illness and asking you to send money to help. Another trick might be to ask you to send money for a plane ticket to facilitate a meeting. Whatever the request is, don’t agree to it.

So how can you spot a dating scam? Look for messages which are a little generic or with English which seems ‘off’. You should also be wary of people who profess strong feelings very early on, or who simply seem too good to be true.

You can also try copying and pasting passages from the original message into Google. Common scam messages will be posted on forums online and if large chunks of your message match one of these scam messages then you can feel confident in reporting the user as a scammer.

If you think that you have been contacted by a scammer, or have fallen victim to a scam, you should report it to the Australasian Consumer Task Force website SCAMwatch. You should also report the user to the dating site administrator, along with any evidence that you may have found during a Google search. Both of these actions will help to ensure that the scammers are caught and that others do not fall victim to that particular scam. 

To find out more about online dating and romance scams, visit the SCAMwatch website.