What is a romance scam?


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What is a romance scam?

scammer holding and mask and flowers

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In this activity, you’ll learn what a romance scam is, and how these scammers rely on building a relationship and then abusing a person’s trust to steal money or trick them into doing something illegal.

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What do romance scams do?

Romance scams take advantage of the way people use the internet to find romance and partners, especially overseas. There’s nothing wrong with meeting someone online or having a romantic relationship with someone you haven’t met, but scammers do use this to target and trick people.

man and woman on their phones blowing kisses to one another.
Using a dating app to message someone

How does a romance scam start?

The scammer will contact you, usually via social media, a dating site you might use, or even via a random email. They’ll be very friendly and interesting, but they’ll try to quickly move from friendship to something more, by professing their love for you.

How does a romance scam progress?

Romance scammers can be surprisingly patient. The fake relationship might continue for weeks, or even a year, before the scammer will suddenly claim they desperately need money to help in a crisis of some kind. Some scammers might also ask you to make purchases or receive money on their behalf.

A calendar dispolaying 4 months and hearts
Woman holding a stack of coins

What happens if I send a scammer money?

The scammer might start by asking for a small amount of money, but if you send any funds they will come up with endless reasons for why they need more. If you ever hesitate, the scammer will use emotion to try to get you to send more money. They will keep this up for as long as they can and will only stop if you realise it’s a scam, or run out of money.

What else do romance scams do?

There have been instances of scammers asking victims to transfer money on their behalf. They will have a story about how their bank isn’t working and they urgently need to pay a bill, or similar. The money will actually be from criminal activity, and receiving and transferring money like this is a form of money laundering, and is a criminal offence.

Handing money to another person
Woman feeling sick and taking her temperature

What happens if I ask to meet the scammer?

Normally, after a while people who are in online relationships may arrange to meet in real life. If you ask the scammer to meet, they will always have an excuse as to why this isn’t possible.

Many scammers prefer to communicate via an encrypted messaging app such as WhatsApp, to avoid leaving a record of the conversations.

Some scammers do ask to meet

While this is rare, some romance scammers will try to arrange a meeting with you, usually in a foreign country. You should be aware there are dangers associated with agreeing to meet someone you only know from online.

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Well done!

This is the end of the What is a romance scam? activity. You’ve learned what a romance scam is and how it works.

Coming up next is the How to identify a romance scam activity, which will show you the ways to tell a scam from legitimate communication.

scammer over a laptop holding flowers