Protect yourself

Protect yourself from romance scams

Romance or dating scams can be complex and difficult to spot, but there are steps you can do to protect yourself from falling for them.

What they are

A romance, or dating, scam is where a scammer pretends to be someone looking for a relationship online but their goal is to trick you into giving them money.

It is not easy to spot a romance scam. Even where there are signs, you may find it hard to believe that the seemingly caring person you have been talking to is a scammer. It is important to take a step back and check for any of these red flags:

  • The person you have met online makes excuses for not wanting to meet in real life, over live video chat, or they are based overseas.
  • They profess very strong feelings or show emotional attachment very early in the relationship.
  • They frequently steer the conversation towards investments or talk about needing money.
  • When they ask you for money, they create a sense of urgency, giving you very little or no time to think it through.
  • They ask you for intimate photos and videos, but do not share theirs. 

How to protect yourself

If you suspect the person you are talking to is trying to scam you, or if you think a friend or family member is being scammed this way, there are a few things you can do.

  • Do your research

    Research them on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. You can check if there are genuine profiles that are ‘friends’ or following them.

  • Reverse image search

    Reverse search their profile pictures or photos they have shared. If you find they have used stock photos or someone else’s pictures, it will indicate they are not who they claim to be. You can do this on Google’s search page by clicking on the “search by image” icon in the search bar.

    Google Images 

  • Think before you share

    Be wary of sharing explicit or intimate images with someone you have only ever met online, even over apps that do not store images. They may find a way of recording these images and using them to their advantage later.

  • Don’t send money

    Be suspicious if they ask for money. Know that it can be difficult to recover money once you have sent it to someone, especially if the person is overseas.

    Be wary if the person asks you to send funds through a third party, like a lawyer or an accountant, someone they say is their business associate, or via a cryptocurrency trading platform. They may also ask you to buy them a high-value gift card and send them the number on it.

    If your bank contacts you about payments you are making, it is important to heed your bank’s warning and check to see if it’s a scam.

  • Be wary of what they're asking

    Watch out if the person tells you to lie to your bank about why you are transferring money – for example, if they ask you to say it’s for “family reasons”.

Get help now

Realising you have been caught in a romance scam can be difficult. People who have been through this may experience disbelief, shock and trauma. As with relationships in real life, it can be difficult to quickly pick yourself up and move on. But it’s important not to be embarrassed, and to seek help.

If you realise you have been scammed or if you suspect the person you are talking to is a scammer, you can take the following first steps.

  • Cut all contact with the scammer, but keep a record of the communication.
  • If you have transferred money to someone and believe it’s a scam, contact your bank immediately.
  • If you are concerned for your physical safety, you should speak directly to your local police station.

Report to CERT NZ for advice and guidance on spotting and dealing with a romance scam. We can also forward your report to New Zealand Police with your consent where needed.

Report a scam