Valentine’s Day is approaching. If you’re among the millions of Australians who use online dating, you should be on the lookout for scammers taking advantage of the Valentine’s Day blues.
Even if you just use online dating websites to make friends, you should try to keep up your guard, especially in February.
The Australian Competition Consumer and Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch website reported $1,600,000 of losses to online dating scams in January last year, and $1,000,000 of losses in March. However, in February, losses skyrocketed to $4,400,000.
The most common delivery methods for online dating scams are the internet, email and social networking.
Identifying the scam
The basic plot of the scam is usually the same:
- The scammer will pretend to fall madly in love with you in a short period of time.
- They will attempt to gain your trust; sometimes this can involve sending gifts in the mail or sharing very intimate information about themselves; this step can take months.
- Once they have gained your trust, they will ask you for money in one way or another. Common examples include helping to pay for flights to come and visit, paying for their family member’s emergency surgery or helping them to recover from a financial hardship.
- If you send the money, the scammer will continue to attempt to get more and more money until it’s no longer possible, leaving you emotionally and financially devastated.
How to spot an online dating scammer
These tips below will help to identify many of the online scammers, but remember that just because they haven’t been detected, doesn’t necessarily mean they are legitimate.
Look for inaccuracies
If the details on someone’s online dating profile don’t match their pictures or the messages they have sent you, they might be scamming you.
If you receive a message where someone has gotten your name or even their own name wrong, they may be sending out dozens of messages and have forgotten to change the names.
How are their language skills?
If your online beau claims they’re from an English-speaking country and they have a university degree but still can’t manage to string simple sentences together, they might be lying about their background.
Check their images
It’s easy to find a picture of someone dashingly dateable on the internet, but did you know that you can search the internet for an image to see where it came from originally?
Simply right click on an image and then select ‘Copy image URL’, then go to Google Images and click on the camera icon in the search bar. Now right click and select Paste to copy over the URL, and click ‘Search by Image’.
You shouldn’t find any results by doing this with pictures you have received from someone in a private message, or with their dating profile picture.
Visit Google’s help page for assistance.
The simple rule to protect yourself
While dating (online or offline) is never without emotional hardships, you can avoid the financial hardships by refusing, no matter what the supposed circumstance, to give money to anyone you don’t know well in person.
Read more at the ACCC’s Scamwatch website.