Technology is pervading almost every facet of our lives, including dating. Undoubtedly, online dating has its advantages, but its growth has brought with it a dark side.
In 2021, 3.2 million Australians were using match-making apps, and these platforms’ developers raked in around $56 million. Little wonder crooks and scammers want a piece of the action – as Shayne found out.
At 24, tradie Shayne met the scammers’ demographic. He signed up after spotting a social media advertisement for free membership to a dating community. Shayne was introduced to a handful of perfect matches and encouraged to get to know them by sharing everyday details like his job, interests, etc.
Scammers use these seemingly harmless details to deceive and exploit individuals seeking love and companionship. A common strategy is creating fake online profiles to gain their victims’ trust. Using photos stolen from websites and social media accounts, along with fabricated stories, families and careers, scammers establish themselves with seemingly genuine online profiles. Having established a connection, scammers engage in ‘catfishing’, a process where they form emotional relationships with those most vulnerable – the trusting, the lonely.
In 2021, Australians were scammed out of over $56 million in dating & romance scams. Whilst this dropped to over $40 million in 2022, losses are again on the increase with over $10 million lost in June and July 2023 alone.
After accepting a social media friend request from one of his matches, Shayne unwittingly exposed his friends and family to the fraudster. Sadly, by the time he realised he’d been scammed, it was too late.
Using photo-editing software, the crooks superimposed Shayne’s face over a series of fake images to create convincing and sexually graphic photos. Shayne then received demands for money to prevent the photos from being shared with his social media contacts, friends, colleagues, and even his grandma!
Panicked, Shayne handed over his entire savings – his home deposit. Even so, he failed to prevent the humiliating images from being uploaded.
This type of scam is called ‘sextortion’, and it’s surprisingly common, though often unreported, due to its embarrassing nature. Victims are left feeling betrayed, humiliated, and reluctant to form relationships. More vulnerable people suffer severe emotional distress.
Beyond the emotional impacts, other risks include:
Financial losses. Scammers concoct elaborate stories involving emergencies or financial hardship to deceive victims into sending money. Victims are left with depleted bank accounts and sometimes debt as they borrow to satisfy the scammers’ demands.
Identity theft. Fraudsters gather personal information, including bank account details and Tax File Numbers. Using these, they obtain passports, driver’s licenses, etc., enabling them to borrow their victims’ names.
Personal safety. Some con artists manipulate victims to meet in person, putting them at risk of physical harm.
Scammers trade on our inherent need to form relationships with one another, but by following a few precautionary steps, you can reduce the risk of being caught out.
- Exercise healthy scepticism. Be wary of individuals behaving suspiciously or making excessive or urgent demands.
- Research the person you’re communicating with. It can be as simple as Googling the company your contact says they work for, their gym, their favourite café etc and make sure they know basic details.
- Guard your information. Never share personal, financial or address details until you’re absolutely, 100% certain.
Online dating offers opportunities for genuine connections, although inadvertent contact with a dodgy dealer can result in devastating emotional, financial and physical safety consequences.
If you suspect you’ve encountered a scammer, consider filing a report with the Government’s Scamwatch page www.scamwatch.gov.au
For emotional support, organisations like Beyond Blue are trained and discreet. Go to www.beyondblue.org.au
By understanding scams and taking preventative measures, you can navigate the online dating world, and perhaps meet that special someone.
 www.takeatumble.com.au ‘13 Online dating statistics Australians should know in 2023’