- Reports of romance scams increased 29% last year
- Expert shares top three red flags to watch out for ahead of Valentine’s Day
- NAB extends red flag campaign to dating apps to educate users on spotting a scammer
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Aussies are being warned to remain vigilant for scammers, with NAB data revealing the number of customers reporting a romance scam has increased 29% year-on-year.
NAB Security Awareness Manager Laura Hartley said there were three main tactics criminals used when connecting with people looking for love, friendship or a casual fling online.
- The traditional approach, where criminals try to steal the victim’s heart by gaining their trust and then asking, pressuring or persuading them to send money.
- Romance baiting, where criminals initiate friendship via text or messaging apps and encourage victims to “invest” in cryptocurrency, shares, term deposits, or foreign currency exchanges.
- Sexual extortion, where criminals claim they have or get the victim to send compromising or sexual images. In both variations, the criminals demand payment in exchange for not sharing the images.
Ms Hartley said some romance scams happen quite quickly, while others last much longer but there are clear red flags to look for.
“With the increase in romance scams last year, we’re working hard to better educate our customers, colleagues and community to recognise the red flags,” Ms Hartley said.
“These scams can have a devastating impact – both financial and emotional – and we see people of all ages, genders and demographics targeted.
“Romance and friendship scams re-enforce the need for a co-ordinated, national approach to the scam epidemic, given many start on dating apps, social media platforms or messaging apps.”
The warning comes as NAB continues its fight against scammers as part of a bank-wide strategy, running ads about romance scams across dating websites and apps. In coming weeks, NAB will also introduce payment alerts to digital banking to help customers spot the potential romance scam red flags.
Ms Hartley said while many Aussies now start long and successful relationships online, it was vital to know how to recognise a potential partner from a scammer.
“Someone you haven’t met in person asking for money – often with an emotional reason why – is the biggest red flag,” she said.
“Another red flag is someone instructing you to accept a money transfer and then transfer those funds to another account.
“A 65-year-old customer came into a Sydney branch recently wanting to transfer more than $1 million across three accounts for his ‘fiancée’, later revealed to be a scammer.
“The banker recognised the red flags, asked questions about the size and purpose of the transfer and it stopped the scam in its tracks. It turned out the customer had never met his fiancée of several months and didn’t know who he was transferring the money to.
“We’re sending 3.2m customers information with advice about how to recognise romance scams and join a free scam education webinar throughout the year.”
Laura’s guide to spotting a scammer from a potential partner
Red flag –The person is reluctant to video chat and makes excuses about why their webcam isn’t working.
Tips –Ask why and look at the quality of any images or videos you’re sent. Criminals don’t want you to see what they really look like and the video quality is likely to appear distorted. Do a reverse image search on any images they send you to see if they are being used by other people or have been reported as a scam.
Red flag –The person asks for money for medical, travel or business emergencies.
Tips –Do not send any money. Stop all contact immediately and report what’s happened to your bank and the platform where you met the person.
Red flag –The person can’t meet in person – often working overseas for a government, army or an aid organisation – and there are inconsistencies with what they tell you. For example, “I’m born in America” but then have poor English in messages.
Tips –Remain sceptical and vigilant. Tell family and friends about the relationship. Ask questions of the person and do name searches on search engines like Google or TinEye.
Red flag –The person asks you to have money transferred to your account and then you transfer it on to them or another person.
Tip –Do not accept or transfer any money. It is known as money muleing and is illegal. Stop all contact and contact your bank.
Red flag –Early on, the person pushes to move the conversation to text messages or email.
Tip –Keep conversations happening in dating apps and websites. These companies have more potential to help if the conversations happen on their platforms compared to private channels.
Notes to editors
- Australians lost an estimated $33 million to romance and friendship scams in the 2023 calendar year, according to Scamwatch
- 29% increase in reports of romance scams relates to NAB FY23 v FY22
- Read more about romance scams in a NAB news explainer and a dedicated page on NAB’s Security Hub nab.com.au/romancescams
- Stay up to date with the latest scams and fraud advice available on NAB’s Security Hub
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