July 2013: SCAMwatch is again warning those looking for love online to stay on the lookout for scammers.
SCAMwatch continues to receive complaints about scammers targeting the lonely hearted online, using fake profiles on genuine internet dating sites and online forums to form a relationship with an unsuspecting victim. Once trust is gained, the scammer quickly attempts to move the victim away from the site and its security to communicate and manipulate them into handing over money.
In a new twist, scammers are blackmailing victims by threatening to send potentially compromising photos or videos to their family and friends if money is not transferred immediately. Scammers will capture photos or videos from webcam chats with the victim and then threaten to post them on public sites. If the scammer has access to their victim's social network profile, they will also threaten to send the link to the victim's family and friends. If the victim pays, the scammer may demand further payment before removing the image or video.
Scammers have a cold heart and will not hesitate to blackmail those seeking love online. Avoid a broken heart, financial losses and embarrassment – don't share intimate photos or videos with someone that you don't know and trust.
How these scams work
- You meet someone online, such as through a dating or social networking website, whom you seem to 'connect' with. The person may claim to have similar likes and dislikes or have gone through similar experiences.
- Once they have built up trust and a rapport with you – which can take just a few weeks or several months – they profess to have strong feelings for you.
- They invite you to communicate with them via a webcam. If you agree to chat, they may ask you to share or do something intimate.
- After the video chat, the scammer informs you that they recorded the chat sessions without your knowledge. They then demand payment, threatening to share the footage with your family and friends via your social networking profile.
- The scammer may have already posted the video live on public sites and will demand payment in order to remove the footage. The scammer may demand several payments before the footage is taken down.
- If you don't send money, the scammer may become more persistent or direct.
- Keep your personal details personal: Never share personal information or photos with someone you don't know and trust. Be particularly wary if someone invites you to communicate via webcam – these days, it's easy to record live footage.
- Watch out: if an online admirer asks to communicate with you outside the dating website, such as through a private email address or over the phone, be wary – they could be a scammer.
- Think twice: Never send money to a stranger via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer – it's rare to recover money sent this way.
- Report: If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
If you think you have come across a scammer, you can report it to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.
For more information on how these scams work, check out the dating and romance scams page on SCAMwatch.
SCAMwatch has previously issued the following radars on dating and romance scams:
- Protect your wallet and your heart this Valentine's Day
- Valentines Day - Don't fall head-over-heels for a scammer.
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.
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