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Valentine’s Scammers: Aussies lose millions to catfish scammers every year

1 in 3 Aussies are worried about scammers on dating apps

Kate Reynolds
Feb 02, 2022
Icon Time To Read3 min read

A third of Aussies say they’re worried about being scammed through a dating app, and not without reason. In 2021, Australians lost a whopping $46.8 million to romance scams; a 20% increase from 2020.

When asked Aussies about their experience with online dating and romance scams, 17% said they’ve been a victim of a romance scam, and 30% said they knew someone who’d been a victim.

What is a romance scam?
Heads Up

A romance scam is defined as when someone begins an online relationship with you with the intention of scamming you out of money.

Catfishing on the other hand is when someone pretends to be somebody they’re not. This can lead to scamming people out of money, but not always. Catfishers can also pose as potential friends, family members, or career connections without romance.

Both romance scams and catfishing involve using a fake online identity to lure in unsuspecting folks. For this report’s purposes, we’ll use the two words interchangeably.

But before you delete Bumble and Tinder from your phone, what’s interesting is that according to the ACC, most scams are done through social media, followed by online apps, and then the internet more broadly.

As for who’s falling victim to these romance scams? The ACCC says the age group with the highest number of reports was 45-54 year-olds. And when we asked, almost 1 in 4 Aussies said they’d been in a relationship with someone they’d never met in person, and of those, 26% said they’d sent over money - averaging $1069.

Which states lost the most to romance scams?

At the time of research, New South Wales topped the list of states that had lost the most to romance scams, totalling $15.2 million. Victoria was next with $11.4 million lost to online romance scams, followed by Queensland, losing $6.4 million.

Map of Australia with state-by-state losses via romance scams

How to protect yourself from online romance scams

Catfishing may lead to stalking, stealing, financial loss and all sorts of shady behaviour, so it’s important to stay safe. To get a little more insight into the intricacies of modern dating, we spoke to dating coach Russ Ross from The Social Collective - who gave us a rundown on how to date safely in today’s modern world.

“A scammer is dangerous and detrimental to more than just your love life, with the risk of financial loss or identity theft, it’s important to look for the red flags and immediately shut down and report the interaction,” Russ explains. He says there are a number of red flags to look out for.

Is their profile too good to be true?

Do they seem ‘too well curated’ and too perfect? Do a quick google search on their name to see if you can find any social media presence. A lot of the dating apps today ask you to connect your Instagram or Facebook account to your profile. - Be cautious if they don’t have one.

What do their profile pictures look like?

Are they too professional, are they just that little bit too sexy or provocative. Once again, if you are worried, do an image search on their photo to see if the same picture is being used with different names on different dating platforms.

Be cautious of anyone living outside your radius

Some people will say that they live locally but are based remotely for work and that it will be a struggle to meet up in person. Often scammers will note they work in the military, or their job takes them out remote regularly. Either way it’s best to move on and meet someone closer to home.

Do they keep making excuses to meet up with you?

This is often a big red flag. You have either met a time waster who is on the apps for all the wrong reasons or a scammer. Either way, get out before it’s too late.

Is the relationship progressing too fast?

Are they saying ‘I love you’ too early on? Are you being swept up in a whirlwind of romance within the first 2 weeks of the relationship? Remember love and connection takes time, a scammer’s goal is to get you to trust them, so be careful not to emotionally invest too early.

Are they asking you for money or personal information?

Seems like an obvious one, however if you are caught up in the moment and the false promises, it can be easy to miss or not realise you are being scammed. No matter what the situation, never give anyone money, bank details or personal information online, especially if you have just started dating them and have never met them in person.

infographic showing stats around romance scams in Australia

But it’s not all doom and gloom, and if you are thinking about giving online dating a try Russ has some final advice.  “Have fun with it - dating is meant to be fun, and enjoyable. It’s not meant to be stressful and riddled with fear and worry. Just make sure you stay safe, stay diligent and remember that you control the pace and narrative, so only move things forward when you feel ready and comfortable.”


Using data from ScamWatch (The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), we found out how much money Australians lost to romance scams and the number of reports from victims. We also surveyed 1,000 Australians to gain insight into their catfish experiences and spoke to dating expert Russ Ross from The Social Collective.

Sources used:

Kate Reynolds
Written by
Kate Reynolds
Kate Reynolds is a writer who's at her happiest when there's haloumi on the brunch menu and a dog to give pats to. She's worked as a travel writer, journalist, theatre reviewer, broadcaster and radio creative, and spends her weekends with as much of the aforementioned haloumi and dogs as possible. She writes on Cammeraygal and Wangal land.

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