First Option Bank

Beware of Romance Scams

I do? Members are urged to report scammers ahead of Valentine’s Day

First Option Bank is warning members against the manipulative wiles of romance scammers ahead of Valentine’s Day.

According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch, almost 4,000 dating and romance scams were reported in 2019, with losses of more than $28.6 million.

While the conventional platforms of dating websites and social media still account for the highest losses, a new trend has emerged of scammers broadening their reach through apps, such as Google Hangouts, and online games, such as Scrabble and Words with Friends.

“This trend shows how scammers are responding to growing public awareness with evermore devious, subtle and sophisticated tactics,” says Leanne Vale, Director of Services and Financial Crimes for COBA (The Customer Owned Banking Association).

Further reporting by the ACCC notes that the highest losses are incurred by the 45 to 54 age group, while the most scams are reported by the 55 to 64 age group.

“Romance scammers target those who are lonely and vulnerable; their intricate web of deceit is designed to steal your heart and empty your bank account,” says Leanne.

Scammers typically lure in victims with fake online profiles that can appear trustworthy, and will even assume the identities of real people, from aid workers to military veterans. Often claiming to be travelling or working overseas, these scammers are eager to express strong emotions, sharing ‘personal information’ or promising to visit at a future date.

Once trust is established, the scammer will often ask for money or banking details to help with a personal emergency.

“Scammers know what buttons to push to make victims feel loved and connected,” says Leanne.

“In reality, their actions often result in hard-working Australians losing their life savings, superannuation or even their home.

“Victims are often embarrassed or ashamed to admit they have been scammed and many don’t act until it’s too late. If you believe you are caught in a scam, contact First Option Bank and make a report to Scamwatch.”

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, here are some tips to help members respond to scammers.

  1. Don’t share personal information with someone you haven’t met. From banking details to the most intimate photos, which can be used for blackmail.
  2. Run an image search on your would-be suitor. Google or TinEye searches can often find the real alias.
  3. Look for glitches in the detail. For example, spelling mistakes, inconsistent stories, or never being available for a Skype or Facetime call.
  4. If you agree to meet, let family and friends know. Always meet in a public place in daylight hours. Travelling overseas to meet an admirer is fraught with risk and not advised.