Romance or dating scams

Online scammers may befriend you or trick you into believing they are in a relationship with you, but their real intent is to take your money.

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. Romance scammers work by winning your trust through online conversations on dating sites and social media. They are willing to play the long game and will put in time and effort into leading you to believe they genuinely care for you.

It’s hard to spot the warning signs of a romance scam if you have grown to trust the scammer. People caught in these scams can suffer significant financial and emotional harm.

How they work

Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites, chat rooms or social networks in the hope of catching someone’s attention. Others may have a real profile with their own images.

Once they find someone, they will exchange messages, photos or videos. These images could be their own, someone else’s or even be AI-generated. They may come across as kind, compassionate and understanding.

Often they will quickly move to calling you their friend or claim to be in love.

Scammers will eventually ask for money. They may:

  • say they are in a dire situation and to ask you to send money urgently,
  • ask for help with booking tickets to travel to meet you,
  • ask you to help move money for them,
  • ask you to purchase something they will pay you back for, or
  • talk to you about investment opportunities or cryptocurrency, asking you to invest with them or on a platform they recommend.

Sometimes scammers may ask you to send them your intimate or explicit photos which they may use later to blackmail you if you turn down their request for money. This is called sextortion.

Netsafe has more information on this type of extortion and what to do if it happens to you or someone you know.

Sextortion - Netsafe