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Friday, 12 February 2021 10:04

‘Romance baiting’ lures victims as dating scams rise, warns ACCC Featured

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Losses by Australians to dating and romance scams are expected to be much higher this year as scammers turn to a new technique - romance baiting - using dating apps to lure victims into investment scams, according to the consumer watchdog, the ACCC.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s warning follows a record-breaking $37 million lost to Scamwatch last year for dating and romance scams.In 2020, there were also 7,314 reports to the ACCC of investment scams with losses over $66 million.

According to the ACCC, the new technique of romance baiting involves scammers meeting people on dating apps and then moving the conversation to an encrypted chat site.

After a few weeks of developing a relationship, the scammer will begin asking about the victim’s finances and encourage them to participate in an investment opportunity, the ACCC warns.

“These scams prey on people seeking connection and can leave victims with significant financial losses and emotional distress,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“While traditional dating and romance scams tend to target older Australians, almost half of all losses to romance baiting scams come from people under the age of 35.”

The ACCC says scammers often encourage victims to initially transfer a small amount of money to prove how easy the investment is, with victims told to top up their accounts to increase their profits but when they run out of money to transfer, the scammer will cease all communication.

Last year Scamwatch received over 400 reports of romance baiting scams with over $15.2 million in losses and the majority involved cryptocurrency investment scams.

“Don’t take financial advice from someone you met on an app and never give financial or personal details to someone you’ve only met online,” Rickard said.

Rickard notes that scammers may use a technique called ‘love bombing’, where they contact the victim several times a day professing their feelings for them - with the victim starting to develop feelings in return, making them more likely to participate in the investment scam.

“If you match with someone on a dating app, get to know them in the app as you have more protections than if you move to a different chat site,” Rickard suggests.

“For example, if someone reports a potential scammer on a dating app, the profile can be removed. Other people currently communicating with the scammer on the platform are then protected by the removal of the scammer's profile.

“Remember that you are in control and if you start to feel pressured by someone, stop communicating with them.

“You can also do an i\Internet search with the name or photo of your love interest or some of the phrases they have used to help identify if it is a scam,” Rickard concluded.

The ACCC recommends thaat if you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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