What's a romance scam?

Romance scammers set out to steal your heart, in order to defraud you. They usually create fake online identities designed to quickly capture your attention and lure you in. Once they’ve gained your trust, often over several months, they use your newfound relationship to request you send them money or gifts. They may ask you for money to fix a non-existent health, travel or family problem or convince you to transfer assets into their name - using manipulative, psychologically controlling and deceitful tactics to succeed.

Photo of a laptop on the deck of a boat

How to avoid being scammed

Spotting a scam

Met someone online? Initial warning signs that things may not be what they seem, include:

  • Over the top, intense declarations of love to create a false sense of trust and understanding
  • Online profiles that don’t match what they tell you
  • Badly written, erratic or vague messages
  • Preferring to communicate with them via email or instant messaging, rather than by dating apps or website
  • A change in tone - from affectionate at the beginning to desperate or threatening if you don't agree to their requests
  • Preying on vulnerabilities such as isolation, age, financial hardship, language barriers

Protecting yourself & your friends

  • Never send money, or share passwords, credit card or account details with anyone you don’t trust or haven’t met in person
  • Research your potential partner online via Google or social media apps: 
    • Try a Google reverse image search to identify if someone else owns the photos you’ve been sent.
    • Look at their photos and connections to see if the people and places mentioned match their profile
  • Think about how realistic the relationship appears to be. Do they make constant excuses and avoid opportunities to meet in person, e.g. their camera never works when you want to Skype or they always miss your phone calls?
  • Be cautious when sharing personal images or videos with online admirers. Scammers can resort to blackmailing their victims if they do not meet their financial demands
  • Speak to your family and friends about your online relationship. They may be able to offer perspective and identify red flags that you may not have noticed or are struggling to accept.

Eddie's story

A romance scam based on a real-life CommBank case study. 

Eddie, a successful 52-year-old business executive, was devastated when his wife of 26 years passed away. After a year of terrible loneliness, Eddie struck up a friendship with Kali, a beautiful 40-year-old woman of African descent, on an internet dating site. Eddie says he was drawn to Kali’s exotic background, and he felt flattered by her attention and care.

Over a period of time, Kali scammed Eddie out of more than $500,000 - read his full story in our Safe & Savvy Guide (page 19).

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Been scammed? What next?

Get in touch

If you (or someone you know) is a CommBank customer and has been targeted or lost money as a result of being scammed, call us immediately 24/7 on 13 2221.

Report it

Report the scam via the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Reports may be referred to the police for possible investigation.

Take control and stay protected

Change your passwords and PINs straight away if you suspect your security has been compromised. Change these regularly as a preventative measure.

Seek support

Contact IDCARE on 1300 432 273 or via www.idcare.org. IDCARE is a free, Government-funded service that provides support to victims of identity crime.

Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.

12th - 16th August 2019

Scammers are getting smarter, and anyone could be a target. From Monday 12th to Friday 16th August, we are putting the spotlight on scams – see the latest scams going around, and how to spot, avoid and report them.

Learn how to protect yourself from scams.

Important information

As the advice on this website has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on the advice, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances. View our Financial Services Guide. Terms and Conditions for these products and services are available online or from any branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The Terms and Conditions should be considered before making any decision about these products.