How to spot online dating scams

Font Size:

Unfortunately, scams are everywhere. Online scams are becoming increasingly common and have mutated over the years to become quite sophisticated – and romance scams are rife. Scammers are drawn to dating sites because they know that the people on there are looking to make a personal connection, and they can use this to their advantage.

But let’s stay positive, it’s definitely possible to meet Mr or Ms Right online – just keep your guard up to protect your heart, your pride and your bank balance.

What is a romance scam?
The very basic definition of a scammer is someone who is pretending to be something they are not for gain. Romance scams involve two people meeting online, often through social media or dating websites, and developing a relationship. Romance scams are often played out over a long period of time, the scammer wants the victim to be so sure of the relationship that when they ask for money, the victim will send it. Scammers spend time grooming their victims with techniques such as professing their emotional commitment and sharing false personal stories. Sadly, the scammers often know exactly what the victim is hoping to hear.

Once trust has been established, they often concoct believable situations where a sudden need for money has arisen and tend to ask for multiple, smaller payments rather than a large one-off sum.

It’s common for scammers to claim to need the money for personal emergencies. For example, they may have a severely ill family member requiring medical attention or a life-saving operation. They may also talk about financial hardship due to a failed business or a violent mugging.  Another popular claim is that the scammer wants to travel to visit the person but can’t afford it unless the victim can lend them money to cover the flights or other travel expenses.

Another trick might be to organise a meeting with the victim, only to send a last-minute message claiming an accident or illness and asking for immediate money to help.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is: if you haven’t met the person face-to-face, don’t send them money under any circumstance.

So how do you spot the signs of an online romance scam?
Here are a few things that should be red flags.

Avoidance: if the person you’re talking to online is reluctant to talk on the phone or discuss meeting in person, it’s possible they are not who they say they are.

Quickly asking to move away from the site you met on: scammers don’t want to hang around on dating sites with fake profiles for too long in case the site or app catches on. If someone is pressuring you to move to other avenues like email, text or WhatsApp, you may be dealing with a scammer.

They are not in Australia: often these people claim to be overseas on a business trip. They can also falsely take on the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working in a different country.

It gets serious quickly: scammers often quickly profess their love in order to manipulate the victim in forking over cash as soon as possible.

They ask a lot of questions: it’s not just about scammers directly asking you for money. Instead, they could be trying to gain enough information about you to steal your identity.

Their profile is too good to be true: if the person you’re talking to online seems to tick all the right boxes, it’s possible they could not be telling the truth. Be suspicious if they have Hollywood looks, a well-paying job, and spend time volunteering for charity on the weekends. These are all common claims used by scammers.

They can’t keep their story straight: remember, scammers don’t always work alone. If they forget past conversations or something is not adding up it could be a group effort and you could actually be talking to multiple people all pretending to be one.

What to do if you think you might be talking to an online scam artist
Use Google reverse image search:
if you use Chrome, a right-click on their photo will give you the option to search Google for the image. This will show whether the photo is being used elsewhere online. If multiple other dating profiles show up, be wary.

Ask for a phone call: listen closely for broken English or for an accent that sounds different from where they say they are from.

Copy and paste their original message into a search engine: common scam messages are posted on forums as a way of helping out other scammers. If large chunks of the message are found on forums or other sites, it’s likely that it came from a scammer.

The bottom line is anyone can be unlucky enough to be a target of a romance scam, and anyone can fall for it. If you are navigating the online dating scene, enjoy it and have fun but keep your wits about you.

Do you think you’ve ever talked with a scammer online? Did you report it?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.


Reasons you might be on the phone with a fraudster

And how to spot when you are talking to one.

One in four Australians hit by cyber thieves

In Stay Smart Online Week, make sure you follow these safety tips.

Scammers have been posing as NBN employees

Don't hand over your financial information to the NBN. They won't ever ask for it.

Written by Ellie Baxter


Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading


Soothe your soul with these stunning images of Japan's cherry blossoms

It's sakura season, the perfect opportunity for locals to indulge in hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of 'flower viewing'. On...


Discover New Zealand's best winter attractions

To mark the start of the trans-Tasman bubble, here are some of the best things to do in New Zealand...


Check your passport's expiry date before booking

International travel seems to be slowly but surely returning. With the trans-Tasman bubble and talks of another bubble opening with...


Tips for getting a good night's sleep on holiday

Travel can seriously mess with our sleep. The jet lag that disrupts our body clocks may be the most obvious...


Tasmania's top spots for shopping and markets

The Margate Train offers shopping with a difference at Margate, southern Tasmania. Margate is 20 minutes south of Hobart (19km)...


What will it take for travel to get restarted again?

Maraid is encouraged by the travel bubble with New Zealand opening up and wonders what needs to happen before we...


The unbelievable software flaw that led to a major flight incident

When it comes to flight engineering, you would hope that every possibility has been factored in to perfection, but a...


Breathtaking views from the world's tallest skyscrapers

For centuries now companies and governments have obsessed over having slightly taller buildings than their neighbours. From St. Paul's Cathedral...