With a surge in dating apps and social media sites, online romance scams are on the rise now more than ever. These channels allow scammers to hide behind the screen, posing as prospective partners to swindle users looking for love.
Romance fraud can be financially crippling, with Scamwatch reporting a record-breaking $37 million lost by Australians to dating scams in 2021. Moreover, the FBI reports that Americans lost a record high of $547 million to online dating scams in the same year. Such crimes also inflict emotional scars, often damaging the victim’s relationships with friends and family members.
If you have been targeted by a romance scam in Australia or overseas, please contact our investigators now. We will uncover actionable evidence to help you prosecute the orchestrator behind the crime and put an end to their deception.
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How do dating and romance scams work?
Dating scams play on your emotions with the aim of persuading you to provide money, gifts or personal information. You may be approached on dating websites or via social media before the scammer works to move communications to more private and less regulated channels like text or email.
Your ‘love interest’ will pursue a seemingly strong connection with you, despite plans to meet in person never materialising. Once they have secured your trust, they will ask you to send money for things like healthcare fees, travel costs or investment opportunities. In reality, they will either pocket these funds and/or use your bank account for further fraudulent activity.
Often run by international crime syndicates, online dating scams can also pose a serious danger to your personal safety. You may be lured abroad and tangled up in perilous situations with devastating consequences. Don’t take the risk.
At IFW Global, our experienced investigators gather actionable evidence of dating and romance scams in Australia and across the globe, helping you to seek justice and start the next chapter. Book a consultation to get started.
Warning signs of romance scams
Watch out for the following red flags of an online dating scam:
They say they have strong feelings for you and want to take your communications somewhere more private – after only a few conversations.
They send vague, poorly written messages.
The information on their profile does not align with how they describe themselves to you or how they behave.
Once they have won your affection, they ask you for money, presents or banking details.
If you don’t send money, their communications become desperate, relentless and potentially even aggressive. If you do transfer money, they keep requesting more.
They always give an excuse for why they are unable to meet you in person, and why they always require more financial support.
They want to discuss money or investments frequently, potentially offering financial advice in some cases.
They ask you for personal photographs, videos or other sensitive information that could be used to blackmail you in the future.
The most common online dating and romance scams
Military romance scams
Fraudsters may create a fake profile with the name and images of a real soldier to send you messages online. They will try to foster an emotional connection, but will be ‘deployed’ before you can meet in person.
Next, the scammer may request money to pay for things like WiFi, medical bills or flights home – none of which are actually needed. In reality, it is all a ploy to steal your savings.
Intimate activity scams
A scammer will court you until you are comfortable enough to engage in a seemingly private and intimate webcam session. However, the criminal may then then reveal their true colours, threatening to release the recording unless you pay them a specified sum.
In this type of scam, the culprit persuades you to send your contact details in exchange for intimate images of themselves. The reality is that they are trying to seize your personal information so that they can steal your money.
Fake dating sites
Some scam dating sites claim to offer legitimate connections but are in fact riddled with scammers. A common tactic entails asking you to create a profile in order to mine your data through sign-up or ‘premium membership’ questionnaires that request personal details.
Moreover, be wary of an influx of messages from suitors after you’ve made your profile, especially if it features minimal information. This is a romance scam red flag.
Code verification scams
You may be asked to verify your online dating account by a scammer posing as the official platform. The communications ask you to click on a third-party link and enter personal data such as your name, address, and even bank account or credit card information that will eventually be used to access your funds.
Malware is a prevalent type of romance scam. Users on dating sites may offer to share further details about themselves on a website page or fake social media profile. These pages contain malicious software that can steal your personal information, ultimately aiding identity theft and financial fraud.
The scammer claims they have to marry in order to inherit millions of dollars in gold left by a deceased loved one, who has stated marriage as a prerequisite in their Will. Alternatively, they may say that they cannot afford to remove the gold from their country and ask for your financial assistance.
Once they have built a personal bond with you, they may propose visiting you in person to prove their legitimacy – only to disappear as soon as you transfer money for their flight.
Romance scam investigators with a proven track record
IFW is revered for its unrivalled ability to unearth evidence and intercept dating scams around the world. Our experienced investigators, researchers and analysts work together to crack down on criminals with unparalleled skill.
We tackle every romance scam investigation with proactive and personalised tactics that adapt with each breakthrough. Our investigations leverage direct access to local databases, expert witnesses in online dating fraud, and a network of confidential informants.
IFW investigators utilise strong relationships with state, federal and international law enforcement agencies across the globe. We can also liaise with local and foreign correspondent lawyers to track down money trails and hidden assets in most countries.
Losing your savings to a scam can be traumatic, particularly when betrayed by someone who you believed had your best interests at heart. To help you take legal action, we will provide a detailed brief of evidence for criminal proceedings in the relevant jurisdiction.
IFW investigates every romance scam with unwavering sensitivity, professionalism and discretion. We understand the emotional complexities of this type of case, keeping its details confidential and encrypting your personal data for privacy purposes.
Frequently asked questionsTop
Romance fraud occurs when someone develops an illusion of a relationship with you as a means to scam you out of your money. These romance scams can be highly sophisticated, sometimes operated by crime syndicates over the span of several years.
Romance scammers typically build fake online profiles to gain your affection and earn your trust. When the time is right, they will ask for your money and/or personal details, taking advantage of your feelings and providing false information to encourage your cooperation.
If this sounds familiar, please contact IFW as soon as possible to start an investigation.
Yes. It is becoming more and more common for criminals to utilise dating sites and apps to seek out vulnerable users looking for love and lure them into a scam. Masked by a false identity, these scammers often go undetected by site and app regulators.
Although conventional dating scams generally target older victims, online romance scams tend to target those under 35 so it is important to be aware of the warning signs at any age.
If you are using dating apps, websites or social media platforms, you can help to protect yourself against romance scams with the below steps:
- Think carefully about which personal details you make public online, as scammers can use this information to target you with a scam and even commit identity theft.
- Research the person’s information and photographs on Google to confirm whether images, names and other details have been used anywhere else.
- Be aware of inconsistencies in their communications, spelling and grammar errors, and red flags such as their camera never working.
- Never send money to the person, particularly through a wire transfer, money order or international funds transfer – these methods make it extremely challenging to recover any losses.
- Never transfer funds on behalf of someone else, as this may be considered money laundering.
- Never share intimate photos or communications with the person, as they may use this information to blackmail you in the future.
- Be sceptical if the person always has an excuse as to why they cannot meet you face-to-face. then always comes up with an excuse as to why he or she can’t.
- If you plan to meet the person face-to-face, share your arrangements with family and friends so that they know exactly where you are going. Avoid travelling overseas.
If you suspect that you have been targeted by a romance scam, please take the following actions as soon as possible:
- Report the scam to the dating site, app, or social media platform where the orchestrator initially contacted you. Detail the scammer’s profile name and any other information that may help regulators to shut down the account.
- Notify your financial institutions that you have been the victim of a scam, as well as freeze your bank accounts and credit cards.
- Report the scam to your national fraud reporting portal (for example: Australia – www.cyber.gov.au and the ACCC’s Scamwatch, USA – www.ic3.gov, UK – www.actionfraud.police.uk, Canada – www.antifraudcentre.ca).
- Report the theft to your local police if money has been stolen.
- Contact IFW Global to begin an investigation into the scam.
Romance scam investigations tend to take between one and three months. This time frame ranges according to the sophistication of the scam and whether you would like to take legal action against its orchestrator(s).
If the perpetrator is identified and tracked down, our investigators can work closely with law enforcement officials to help file search warrants and/or criminal charges against them – a complicated task that may extend the overall process.
The cost of romance fraud investigation rests in the complexity of the circumstances at hand, the losses incurred, and the jurisdiction in which the offence has been committed.
Prior to beginning the investigation, our investigators will provide you with a personalised proposal that breaks down a recommended budget to maximise the chances of a successful outcome.
The probability of a successful investigation depends on the distinct circumstances of the case in question. The more actionable evidence our investigators gather, the stronger the chances that you will be able to take legal action against the perpetrator.
To estimate the likelihood of a successful outcome, we will perform a preliminary assessment of your case. Armed with this expert insight, you may choose whether or not to commence the romance scam investigation.