How to identify a romance scam


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How to identify a romance scam

Man talking to a woman

What's coming up?

In this activity, you will learn how a romance scam works step by step via a scenario. You’ll meet Michael and his online girlfriend Kathy, who is in fact a scammer. This activity will show how Kathy takes advantage of Michael’s trust to get him to send money, and what Michael does when he realises it’s all a scam.

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Michael meets Kathy on Facebook

Michael’s grandkids sign him up to Facebook and set up an account for him, because they think he will benefit from more social connection. After a while, Michael gets a friend request from Kathy, who claims she is an Australian living in Indonesia and helping as an aid worker.

Accepting a friend request on facebook
Reading a message received via facebook

Kathy builds trust with Michael

Kathy and Michael chat back and forth for a few weeks, and to Michael it seems like romance blossoms. By this stage, Kathy has encouraged Michael to move from Facebook Messenger to WhatsApp. She claims this is easier and safer for her to use. Whenever Michael asks to chat over video, Kathy explains that the internet connection in her area is too unreliable and slow for video.

Kathy claims to have been robbed

One day, Michael finds an alarming message from Kathy saying she has been robbed. Kathy seems very upset and claims all her cash has been stolen as well as some personal documents. She seems desperate, and with many apologies, she asks Michael if he can help her out with $1000 to cover her rent, food, and organising new documents. Of course, Michael feels bad for Kathy and transfers the money to her account immediately.

Kathy sends a fake message to Michael
a locked padlock

eSafety tip

If a person you’ve never met in real life, and only know via the internet, suddenly asks you for financial help, you should cease contact with that person immediately.

Michael imagining Kathy in a hospital bed

Kathy asks for more money

Michael and Kathy go back to normal communication for a few days, but then suddenly Kathy claims she has had an accident and has been hospitalised. She says she’s really worried because she has no insurance, and her new documents haven’t arrived yet. She says the hospital is charging her $10,000 for treatment. She also mentions that the staff is being aggressive and she’s scared. Michael transfers her the $10,000 to keep her safe and get her out of her predicament. The next day Kathy claims the hospital wants even more money.

Michael decides to contact authorities

Michael is worried that Kathy is being victimised by corrupt hospital staff and he decides to contact the Australian Government to see what consular support is available for her in Indonesia.

He is shocked when they tell him Kathy sounds like a romance scammer and that none of what she is saying is true.

Michael confronts Kathy with this, and she cuts off all communication.

A scamemr behind a phone with a photo of kathy on it
WEbpage with ACCC and scamwatch logos

Michael reports the scam

Michael is hurt but realises he has to accept that he’s been tricked. He determines to not be embarrassed about Kathy’s clever scam, and reports the details to the ACCC’s Scamwatch web page at , and also to at

Money sent overseas is difficult to recover

It's important to note that when you send money overseas, it’s almost impossible to recover later if it turns out you have been scammed.

Sending money via an online trasnfer

Well done!

This is the end of the How to identify a romance scam activity. You’ve learned what a romance scam can look like, by following the misfortune of Michael.

Up next, you can find out how to avoid being fooled by these scams in the Protecting yourself from romance scams activity.

kathy in a hospital bed and a scammer on his laptop