What are Romance Scams?
A romance scam is a fraudulent strategy in which a scammer shows romantic interest in a target, establishes an online relationship and then attempts to get money/confidential information from the victim under false pretenses. Australians reported almost 4,000 dating and romance scams in 2019 with losses of more than $28.6 million (ACCC, 2020).
Below are the signs of a romance scam:
• Scammer professes love quickly and asks for money/confidential information
• Scammer claims to need money for emergencies, hospital bills or travel expenses
• Scammer claims that they will visit soon.
• Scammer usually has an excuse as to why they cannot meet face-to-face/video chat
• Scammers sometimes pretend to be; in the military, working abroad, a doctor working with an international organization or a charity worker.
From the beginning of the year, Monoova has resolved 74 cases of romance scams and recovered client funds totaling approximately $201,630.00
The Case of a Supposed US Army Major
This year, one of our clients had a customer who experienced a long-term romance scam.
Over the course of 12 months, the victim transferred a total of $12,000 into various accounts. The scammer claimed to be a US Army Major who needed help with their medical bills.
The victim never saw the scammer’s real face as the scammer had used stolen photos found online. They had also never had a video-call or met face-to-face. The name used in the scam was a known name and the stories being told to the victim had been told to countless victims before.
Beyond traditional online dating websites, romance scams are also becoming more prevalent on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Google Hangouts and even online games such as Words With Friends and Scrabble (ACCC, 2020).
Monoova was able to freeze the scammer’s bank account to ensure no future fraudulent transactions. Scammers tend to move fraudulent funds quickly to prevent detection from both the police and business fraud teams.
4 tips to avoid being scammed
1) Don’t transfer funds: Never transfer funds to someone you haven’t met in person. If the person you’re communicating with asks for money, stop all communication immediately.
2) Research names used: If you have any suspicions, do a quick search of any names used to see if there are similar stories of past victims online.
3) Report the scammer: If the person you’re communicating has asked for you to transfer money, report this on the platform you’re using and to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
4) Contact your bank: If you’ve transferred funds, contact your bank as soon as possible. They will try to intercept the funds before they reach the scammer’s account.