Scam disruption project

The scam disruption project, which involved working with the ACFT, state and territory police and consumer affairs agencies to alert at-risk individuals to the possibility of being a victim of fraud, concluded in August 2017. If you received a letter from us we still invite you to contact us on the number provided.  

Warning signs of relationship scams

Always think twice before sending money overseas. Scammers are highly skilled at inventing believable stories and deceiving their victims, succeeding by preying on a victim's trust and good nature.

You might be dealing with a scammer if:

  • you’ve never met or seen them: scammers will say anything to avoid a ‘face-to-face’ meeting, whether it be in person or over the internet via a video chat (e.g. their camera isn't working)
  • they’re not who they appear to be: scammers steal photos and profiles from real people to create an appealing façade - always run a Google Image search to help determine if they are a scammer
  • you don’t know a lot about them: scammers are keen to get to know you as much as possible, but are often less forthcoming about themselves
  • they ask you for money: once the connection’s been made – be it as a friend, admirer, or business partner – scammers will eventually ask you to transfer money – often waiting weeks, months or even years before doing so
  • they ask to chat with you privately: many online dating sites have systems in place to detect scammers so scammers will try and move the conversation away from the scrutiny of community platforms to a one-on-one interaction such as email or phone.

Example request to chat privately

Clues for spotting a fake dating profile

When looking at a new dating profile, note anything unusual about their choice of:

  • photo
  • location
  • interests
  • language skills matched to background.

Scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.

Tip: Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided.

Clues for spotting a fake document

Documents are easily faked. Some will look just like the real thing, but others might have warning signs, such as:

  • generic rather than personal greeting
  • names of organisations that don't exist
  • poorer quality presentation
  • poorer quality grammar and spelling
  • overly official or forced language.

Documents such as flight itineraries and bank statements have simple, uncomplicated layouts even when they are legitimate because such businesses allow their customers to print online statements. This simplicity means such documents are extremely easy to fake. Scammers can also look up real flight numbers and times online and take company logos and graphics from websites.

Case study

This is a fictional account based on real cases.

Kate's story

I met Andrew through an online dating website. He described himself as a professional, living in Australia, with international business dealings. He sent me photos and told me about his family. He asked me to email and message him privately so we could chat more freely and quickly. He told me he was falling in love with me.

After a while of chatting, Andrew said he had to travel overseas on important business. He said he would come and meet me when he got back. However, he ran into trouble overseas. He had legal issues to work out and problems with the supply of vital parts. Without help he would not be able to finish the job and that would be damaging to his career. Appearing desperate, he asked me for money.

I was reluctant at first, but he seemed like such a nice guy. He’d never asked for any money the whole time we’d been chatting. He also sent me documents about his situation and promised to repay me. So I agreed to send some money, convinced he would pay it back when his troubles were all sorted and he came back to visit me.

However, just as the job neared completion there were more problems. The authorities overseas had issues with his work permits and visa. He asked me for more money to help. Then his passport was stolen, he missed his flight and the money I sent was confiscated by customs and he was charged under a confusing law by corrupt officials.

I started to question the situation and had a feeling I might be being scammed. Then, I got a message from Andrew’s ‘doctor’ saying that he had suffered a tragic accident, and needed money for an operation.

When I refused to send money, he dropped me.  All in all Andrew scammed more than $11,000 from me and I’ve been feeling depressed ever since. I took a gamble giving away money to someone I’d never met in person, and lost my trust of people in the process.

A world away, ‘Andrew’ has already started scamming the next person to fall for his stories.

Follow up scams

Scammers will often try to take advantage when you’re feeling vulnerable and try to extract more money from you through a follow up scam.

Some common follow up scams include:

  • offers from a law enforcement agency to investigate your scam and retrieve your money for a fee. Law enforcement agencies do not charge for their services
  • a doctor calling you to alert you that the scammer urgently needs medical bills to be paid or they might die
  • a woman contacting you to explain she is the scammer’s wife and wants to escape him but needs money to do so.

These are only a few of the follow up angles scammers may use try to get more money from you. New approaches could be quite different from the original scam and come quickly or some time later. Scammers may have passed your details to other scammers with entirely different methods and the new angle may seem totally unrelated to the original scam.

Scam warning video - relationship scams

Contact the ACCC

If you have received a letter from us, contact the ACCC using the number listed in the letter to help determine if you are being or have been scammed.

Our investigators offer confidential advice and use their experience to help you decide if you or someone you know may be at risk.

Detect - Disrupt - Disable

More information

Dating and romance scams
How to protect yourself
Been scammed - need support?
Report a scam
Share your story
ACCC updates on scam disruption project