Cindy’s* experience of being scammed started with emojis.

After feeling pressure from her family to start a family, she decided to sign up for an online dating site. 

“Instantly I got bombarded with emojis…. Love hearts and kisses,” says Cindy, a CBA employee for more than seven years. “Right away he told me he loved me.”

After chatting online for a few days, the pair then started having phone conversations. Cindy noticed his number started with 08 – the prefix for South Australia.

“On one of the phone calls I heard a rooster in the background,” she recalls. “At that moment I felt like something was off… But I convinced myself it was nothing. You don’t get many roosters in Adelaide”

Despite the warning signs, the relationship continued to develop.

Then came the request for money.

She says one day she got an urgent call from her love interest saying he was in Bali for work and a piece of equipment had exploded. If he didn’t remove it, he claimed, the police would arrest him. He said he urgently needed $5,000 transferred to a woman’s name, purportedly the receptionist at his hotel.

Looking back at it now, she can spot the signs — but at the time she thought someone she cared deeply about was in trouble.

“I was worried the love of my life might get arrested.”

Spotting a relationship scam

Sadly, Cindy isn’t alone. 

The most recent Targeting Scams report, published by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, puts relationship scams in the top three scams causing the most financial harm, with Australians losing $142 million to relationship scams last year.

Relationship scammers set out to steal your heart to defraud you.

“They usually create fake online identities designed to lure you in. Once they’ve gained your trust, often investing several months of close contact, they use your newfound relationship to request that you send them money or gifts,” says James Roberts, General Manager Group Fraud at Commonwealth Bank. 

“They may plead with you, asking for cash to help with a non-existent health, travel or family problem, or ask you to transfer assets into their name – using manipulative, psychologically controlling and deceitful tactics to get what they want.”

His advice if you suspect you may be interacting with a scammer?

“Cut off contact immediately.”

Not-so-happy ending

To make matters worse, two days later the scammer asked Cindy for another $10,000. After she transferred the second time, the scammer stopped communicating.

It was then Cindy knew she had been victim to a relationship scam.

Even though she works for a bank, she says shame stopped her from coming forward. She still hasn’t told her family about the experience.

However she’s determined to let her experience be a warning to others.

“Even people who work at a bank can fall victim to scams,” she says. 

“I now work in the Fraud team and use my experience to help educate customers to stay safe.”

Her one piece of advice: “When in doubt, ask for help and speak about it with someone you trust.”

Cindy’s advice comes during Scams Awareness Week, which in 2022 runs from 7 to 11 November. This year’s theme is "How to spot a scam?’.

To help support this campaign, CBA is running a number of group-wide and external activities to further raise the awareness of scams to ensure people and businesses are better equipped to Stop. Check. Reject.

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