What are the chances that you’ll find both true love and millions of dollars online? Unlikely right! Our handy guide helps you to know what to look out for when it comes to scammers.
Be careful of sharing your personal information, such as your full name, address, birth date, family details or intimate photographs and videos with people you meet online. These may be used by scammers for the purposes of identity theft or blackmail.
If anyone asks you for personal details such as banking details or credit card numbers, don’t send them. Scammers may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature. They may use these later to try and blackmail you by threatening to send them to your friends, family or employer.
Sometimes scammers ask for a small amount of money and will pay it back. They may also send small gifts. These are just tactics to gain your trust.
A common tactic for scammers is to ask for money for flights, visas or other expenses and promise that they will come and visit you. Needing money for a plane ticket or travel expenses to visit you is a common story used by scammers. They may send you a ‘genuine’ copy of their visa or plane ticket but then tell you they need money for an unexpected expense. Don’t be fooled—scammers often have access to high quality fake documents. Scammers sometimes take a long time to build a relationship with you—never send money to anyone you meet online, no matter how long you have been chatting with them.
Been offered a big payout by someone you met online? Scammers will use all kinds of stories to get you to send money to them.
Some scammers will tell you they need money for medical treatment, be it for themselves, a sick relative or child. Others will tell you that they are in the military and need money for a leave pass so they can visit you. They might tell you that the money will go to a charity, or be invested in a business like oil exploration or gold mining. Alternatively, they may promise that paying money will allow you to access a lottery prize, a long lost inheritance or treasure, like a cache of gemstones. The take-away here is to be vigilant of any wild stories- anyone asking for money online is just an odd thing to ask. In a nutshell, never send money to anyone you meet online.
Sometimes a scammer’s description will not match their profile picture—be cautious and look carefully. It is not a coincidence that the scammer’s computer camera or Skype connection never seem to work.
Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye.
Google search some of the phrases in emails they have sent you. You may find these have been used over and over again by scammers.
Contact from a person overseas makes it more likely that they are a scammer, even if they say they are just travelling for work
Beware of accepting gifts that could be used to conceal drugs. Some scam victims have been caught carrying drugs through customs in luggage they were given as a present.
Do not agree to transfer money or send valuable items for someone else: money laundering and drug trafficking are criminal offences.
Never share intimate photos or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
Jessica, an Australian business woman in her 40s, met a man called Martin on an online dating site.
Martin’s profile said that he was an Australian but he was currently working for an oil company in the United Arab Emirates. He said he was posted to the UAE for a brief period to oversee an oil pipeline project but was due to return home soon. He was a widower with a 10-year-old daughter. Martin’s photo showed that he was attractive, well-dressed but not too formal. He looked friendly and about the same age.
Martin’s interests were not very specific but appeared similar to Jessica’s own, namely sports and other outdoors activities. Both were after a serious relationship and looking for a warm and loving partner.
Martin told Jessica that he could not reliably access the dating site in the UAE and so they moved their communications to email and phone.
Jessica and Martin struck up a close relationship and exchanged regular emails and many phone calls.
Martin came across as sensitive and caring and often listened to her problems. He showed an interest in her life, including her business affairs. He liked to call just to tell her he missed her and would love to meet up. After several months Jessica felt that she could tell Martin anything and Martin confessed his love for her.
Soon afterwards, Jessica received an email from Martin claiming that he had been mugged and lost his wallet. He said that he was working away from his camp, and at the hotel where he was staying, the hotel manager was holding his passport and refused to return it until he paid his next month’s bill. He was soon to be paid but asked Jessica to advance him $1200 by wire transfer to help with his hotel bill. Jessica thought he would pay her back so she wired the money across.
Some weeks later, Martin called Jessica in quite a state and told her that his daughter had been struck by a car in a hit and run on her way to school and suffered a brain haemorrhage. He said that he needed $8000 quickly, to pay for an expensive operation to save her life. Horrified by these events, sent the money via wire transfer as it would be quicker.
Things were settled for a while and then Martin told Jessica that he had an opportunity to invest in oil exploration in Ghana. The enterprise was to help out the poor local community and investors would be well rewarded. He said that she was guaranteed a big return if she sent him $40 000 to invest. He said that this would help them set up a home together when he returned to Australia soon. He also advised her to transfer the money from her bank to the investment account held at Barclays bank because this would be safer and he gave her all the relevant details.
Jessica was concerned because this was a large sum of money and asked her friends and relatives what she should do. Some of her friends expressed concern that she may be dealing with an online scammer.
Jessica questioned Martin’s motives. He told her he was very hurt and sent her photographs which he claimed were photos of himself with his daughter and children in the local community. Jessica told her friends that she knew and trusted him and decided to send the money anyway.
Over time, Jessica was asked to help out in a number of ways as well as pay for fees and taxes on her ‘investments’ until she had paid over $90 000. Some of Jessica’s friends showed her material about online scams, so Jessica began to keep details about the relationship to herself. However, when Jessica again mentioned her concerns to Martin, he told her that he “swore by almighty God” that he loved her and the money she sent was being invested in their relationship.
It was hard, but soon Jessica had to admit to herself that there was something wrong. She thought about how the conversations often turned to money and the requests for more were becoming very frequent. One day after he had asked for more money to organise travel to Australia she decided to stop. Martin’s emails and phone calls became increasingly insistent and angry. She should have hung up straight away but she still felt something for him.
Then Jessica received an email threatening to send her friends and family copies of intimate photos Jessica had sent to Martin, unless she paid another $10 000. This cemented in Jessica’s mind that the whole affair was an elaborate scam and Jessica finally sought help from the police. Jessica felt devastated that a man she felt she could trust implicitly was in fact a scammer. In addition to these mental and emotional costs, she had also sent the scammer in excess of $90 000—most of her life savings.
She found it hard to discuss this with her family and friends because she felt so foolish. They had warned her but she trusted the scammer over those truly closest to her. When she did her own research she found that she was not alone. Many others had had similar experiences.
If you have been a victim of a scam, please let us know asap by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have lost money to a scammer, or the scammer has threatened or attempted to blackmail you, report the matter to the police via the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) at www.acorn.gov.au
You can also report the scam to report the scam to the ACCC scamwatch www.scamwatch.gov.au .
The ACCC considers that the following advice should be given to online dating site users concerned that they have fallen victim to a scam: