Looking for love? Beware of romance scams this Valentine’s Day


This Valentine’s Day, Canberrans are being encouraged to be cautious with personal information and funds when it comes to looking for love online.

During 2020, 65 reports of dating and romance scams were made in the ACT, incurring a loss of $468,474, compared to 68 reports in 2019 with a loss of $1,144,096.

Despite the reduction in the financial impact of scams to Canberrans last year, Minister for Consumer Affairs Shane Rattenbury warned Canberrans to beware of scammers seeking to steal their heart and money.

“With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’re warning the community to be on the lookout for dating and romance scammers,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“People need to be aware that online dating websites are not the only method of contact romance scammers use to con their victims, and that there are some simple warning signs to watch out for.”

Almost a third of dating and romance scams in Australia occur via social media and online forums, with the highest losses on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

“There has been a growing trend for romance scammers to use apps like Google Hangouts, or online games such as Words with Friends to scam people who may not have been looking for an online relationship,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“One of the best ways you can protect yourself from romance scammers is to never provide money or bank details to someone you have never met, even if you have known them online for several months.

“The majority of people lose money via bank transfer, so be wary of who you send money, particularly if you’ve not met them in person. If you have provided a scammer with your bank details, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.”

Australia-wide, 3,680 incidents of dating and romance scams were reported with a loss of over $37 million in 2020.  

While anyone can be fall victim to love scams, Scamwatch data shows that seniors are often targeted, with people aged over 65 losing $7.8 million nationwide in 2020.

“Older Canberrans are at-risk of being targeted by scammers no matter what time of the year,” Minister for Seniors Emma Davidson said.

“There are organisations in our community who empower and help older Canberrans to recognise the signs of a scam and to seek legal help if they targeted, such as Older Persons and Advocacy Legal Service and the National Elder Abuse Hotline.”

Dating and romance scammers use common tactics to con their victims:

  • Using a fake identity, they will profess love for their victim quicky.
  • Once they have gained a person’s trust, they will often weave stories about why they can’t meet in person and invent a sob story about why they need to borrow money. 
  • No matter how much money is provided, they will ask for more and may employ guilt or aggressive tactics to get their way.

“We know that many scams go unreported but I would encourage anyone who thinks they have been scammed, even if they have not suffered a financial loss, to report the matter to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“By reporting scams to Scamwatch, you’re helping them monitor trends, warn people about emerging issues, and disrupt scams where possible.

“Your actions could save someone from the emotional and financial toll of being scammed, so don’t be embarrassed to report if you’ve been scammed.”

If you or someone you know may have been scammed, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au for information on what you can do.