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Real Stories - Online Relationships

Real Stories - Online Relationships

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Dating & romance scam: Facebook

Sarah met her partner online through Facebook. They chatted for a number of months and the relationship grew over that time. Her partner was based in the Middle East and they decided together it was time to move the relationship to the next step. He was going to move so they could be together properly. The relationship had been online initially and then moved to texts and phone calls.

He gave his flight details, times of arrival, connections, etc. to Sarah. He had already sent his belongings a few weeks previous and they would be arriving shortly. Later that day Sarah received a phone call from customs to say the belongings had arrived but that the customs had been underpaid and would need to be paid immediately to release them for delivery. If it wasn’t paid the items would be returned. They had tried contacting her partner, but Sarah knew why they couldn’t get in touch, sure he was mid-air on his way to her country. Sarah was advised to pay the customs via transfer as it was instant and given the bank details to do so. She paid almost $4,000.

The next day when her partner's connecting flight was due, Sarah happened to tell a family member about the stress of getting the payment over to customs. It was only then that the family member convinced her to contact the bank and the police. Initially, she declined but when her partner never showed she realized she had fallen victim. Even when she reported it she still didn’t believe it was true and that there was some misunderstanding.

The bank attempted to recall the payment but the money had already been moved and they were unsuccessful. Upon further investigation, they discovered several smaller payments had been made over the months of the relationship for minor things e.g. Amazon gift cards, iTunes vouchers, and that kind of thing. The requests never came directly from the fraudster however seeds had been planted over the months and Sarah had done them as anyone in a relationship would.

Signs this was a scam

The scammer:
  • professed he would marry the victim.
  • claimed he was overseas for work.
  • always had reasons why he needed to borrow money urgently.
  • had the victim buy him iTunes cards.
  • always had excuses why he couldn’t visit the victim.
Avoid this type of scam:
  • Run a reverse-image Google search of your prospective partner’s profile photo to help check whether it is fraudulent.
  • Refuse to buy gift cards or make up-front payments. It’s best to avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card, or Bitcoin, as it is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Be careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with partners you’ve never met before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.

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