There are a number of cases where Western Australians have been conned out of thousands of dollars, including one man who lost about $100,000 trying to bring his "bride" to Australia.
Scammers find their victims by posing as singles on Internet dating sites or by prowling chat rooms or other sites looking to pick up vulnerable singles. They cultivate their victims over weeks and months to gain their trust before reeling them in with requests for money or assistance.
The request for money might be to help a sick relative or to pay for airfares so you can meet. One WA victim was asked to cash some travellers cheques and wire the money on to the man, the cheques were fakes and she ended up thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Be aware that scammers may also be collecting for personal information so they can assume your identity. Most legitimate dating sites and chat rooms provide helpful tips on how to protect yourself from scammers. Their advice can be helpful.
Here are some tips on how to avoid being scammed by a romance scam.
- Always guard your anonymity and personal information until you are comfortable with the person. Ask lots of questions, trust your instincts if you have any doubts, be cautious and be selective before providing such information.
- Be wary of emails from overseas-based singles, particularly if they start confessing their love for you within weeks of emailing you and despite never having met you.
- Watch out for personal photographs that are "too good to be true".
- Be cautious of singles asking too many questions about your financial status. Keep the topics to hobbies and interests.
- Be very wary if they start mentioning a financial difficulty or needing financial assistance. Never send money, particularly by wire transfer. If you are using a legitimate dating site and feel uncomfortable about the person, report it to the dating site.
For More tips on how to keep your heart safe online see the Australian Communications and Media Authority website.
SUPPORT: For assistance and counselling services please go to ScamNet - Help for Victims. If you need to speak to someone urgently call Lifeline on 13 11 14.