In the seventh episode of Anatomy of a Scam, host Deborah Knight unpacks romance scams. These types of scams are deeply personal and targeted, making them extremely effective.

David Lacey from IDCARE, a charity supporting scam victims, explains that the effects of these scams are often not just financial.

“Behavioural impacts are things that you can’t put financial value on… the psychological impact of these crimes endures,” says Mr Lacey.

Ms Knight speaks to Sharon Armstrong, who experienced a romance scam on an online dating site while falling for someone who went by “Frank”.

“I don’t ever remember feeling like I was as giddy in love as I was. I’d never even met this man,” explains Ms Armstrong.

After she transferred almost $15,000 to Frank, who she believed was the love of her life, he asked her to meet him in London — requesting she stop through Argentina to collect “contracts” for him.

But the case containing the contracts turned out to contain an illegal substance, and Ms Armstrong was arrested for drug smuggling. She ultimately served two-and-a-half years in prison in Argentina.

Monica Whitty, a cyber psychologist and Professor of Human Factors in Cyber Security from Monash University, has spent over 20 years researching the psychological triggers of a scam.

“There’s a scam out there for everyone,” she says. “There’s something out there that we all want and we all focus on…and it could hit you at any time.”

Professor Whitty explains that there are common psychological triggers of scams, including urgency, authority, trust, human desire and vulnerability.

Despite the complex psychological frameworks behind romance scams, many victims become embarrassed. Mr Lacey explains you often hear the words “foolish and stupid” associated with these scams.

“In reality, there’s a scam for every one of us and any of us can get done,” he says.

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Anatomy of a Scam — episode 7


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