Protecting Your Employees from Romance Scams in Australia: A Guide
Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love and affection, but it’s also a time when scammers may try to take advantage of people who are looking for love. Romance scams, also known as “catfishing,” can be especially prevalent during this time of year, as people are often more susceptible to emotional appeals and may be more likely to let their guard down.
While not at all compromising on any network or devices but using human psychology to target the victim. To help organisations to protect their employees, here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam in Australia, read our blog article ‘Protecting Your Employees from Romance Scams in Australia: A Guide’
Bunbury grandmother jailed over ‘lover’ scam
In recent years, the number of romance scams in Australia has skyrocketed, leading to millions of dollars in losses for unsuspecting victims. These scams typically involve a fraudster creating a fake online identity, pretending to be someone they’re not, and using that persona to build a romantic relationship with the victim. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports that Australians lost over $25 million to these scams in 2020, with the average loss being nearly $28,000.
In 2018, Deborah Maree Taylor a 54-year-old grandmother and traffic controller from Bunbury, was sentenced in Perth District Court after tricking a German man into sending her over $12,000. Taylor posed as a US Army sergeant, convincing the man that she needed the money before she could take her “forever leave” to be with him. The judge described the romance scam as serious, stating that Taylor had full awareness of her actions and sentenced her to spend a minimum of six months in prison.
Reasons why romance scams are rising
Romance scams are skyrocketing mainly because of the increasing loneliness among urban citizens, which has increased multifold during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic compelled people to isolate themselves and depend more on dating, matchmaking and social apps to discern a soul mate. In addition, dating apps’ enduring impact among millennials, teens and older people’s ignorance of internet fraud encourages con artists.
In such cases, the impostors quickly interact with the victim to win their trust and love. And once they make sure they have gained faith, they devise several tricks to grab some fast cash.
To create awareness against such prevalent scams, MTV rolled out a TV show, Catfish: The TV Show, while popular streaming platform Netflix rolled out a series dubbed The Tinder Swindler. But the growing numbers are showing no sign of waning. For example, the US FTC claims that between January to March 2022, cryptocurrency-based romance frauds totalled $185 million and stood second among the most prevalent scams, right after investment-related cons.
Why do companies need to protect their employees from romance scams?
Yes, companies should protect their employees from romance scams. Romance scams can have a significant impact on the emotional and financial well-being of employees, and can also negatively impact their job performance and productivity. Furthermore, scammers may attempt to use company resources, such as email or social media accounts, to perpetrate their scams, putting the company’s reputation and security at risk.
By taking steps to protect employees from romance scams, companies can help to create a safer and more secure work environment, as well as promote the well-being and financial security of their employees.
Key stages of a romance scam
Although most scams are not typical, all romance scams follow some common steps and modify them according to the victim’s reactions. The significant stages of any romance scam are.
- They would reach you mostly through dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, etc. But with the massive presence of the Asian crowd on social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, scammers are thronging there too.
- They will be charming and soft toward the victim while flaunting their lavish lifestyles.
- Their profiles also exhibit their work, lifestyle, and looks to stand up to what they are pretending to be. They often use stolen images from social media to develop a fictional persona notoriously identified as “catfishing.”
- Modern scammers often reach out to the victim through email, phone calls or instant messengers, asking to take out the relationship offline.
- Seldom do they drag out the relationship for a few months. Instead, the swindlers will execute everything rapidly and fulfil their intention in a short period.
- They will introduce them to living somewhere close to the victim but often pretend to move out or travel extensively for some adventurous or well-paying job.
- The scammers would sham attachment and fondness by pretending to send flight tickets or expensive gifts to earn trust rapidly.
- They would express their longing to meet the target victim soon, but every time they would come up with a convincing excuse to mothball the meet-up.
- Once they gain the trust of the other side, they will make up something like medical expenses, freight charges for gifts, tickets to visit, visa fees or sudden trouble and ask for a hefty amount. Modern catfishers also ask to invest in cryptocurrencies via specific platforms in exchange for a massive return. Romance scams involving cryptocurrency are notoriously known as “Pig Butchering,” alias “CryptoRom.” But unlike typical romance scammers, con artists involved in Cryptorom use popular instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Discord. We will go over this scam in detail in a later blog post.
- Most scammers, including romance scammers, are keen to grab the looted money rapidly; hence, they instruct the victim on how to send the money.
How to spot a romance scammer and get rid of them
- Never rush into a relationship. Take your time with everything. Know the person sitting on the other side through prolonged conversations and look for inconsistencies.
- Save all the available images of your new friend and do a reverse image search on Google to ensure they are not available elsewhere under a different persona.
- Read between the lines of each text message sent to you. Especially check the messages describing the suitor’s present whereabouts and profession. Then, please copy and paste them into search engines and check whether they are available anywhere else.
- Never share your personal information or intimate photos with anyone you’re newly acquainted with. The impostors can later use them for identity theft or other vicious purposes.
- Bottle up your feelings and block the person immediately if they ask for money through wire transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrencies. Only send money to people once you meet them in person. Repeat the step if the person on the other side starts recommending investments with exorbitant returns. Also, report the profile to the platform provider.
How to report for romance scams?
In Australia, you can report a romance scam to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) through their Scamwatch website or by calling 1300 795 995. You can also report it to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) if the scam involves a large amount of money or if the scammer is located overseas.
In New Zealand, you can report a romance scam to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) by calling 0800 00 88 55 or by reporting it through their Consumer Protection website. You can also report it to the New Zealand Police if the scam involves a large amount of money.
In Singapore, you can report a romance scam to the police through their online reporting portal or by calling their hotline at 1800-255-0000. You can also report it to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) through their ScamShield website or by calling their hotline at 1800-722-6688. It’s important to report romance scams to the authorities as they can help bring the scammers to justice and prevent others from becoming victims.