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"They ask for a small amount, and over a period of weeks the person is totally in love and caught up with situation, but there is always an excuse," she said."The love interest works overseas, there is always some disaster that would prevent them from getting money to see the victim." The fraud is called an "advanced feed fraud" as the victim gives money expecting to get it back and all sorts of false ID is provided to let the victim believe they will get the money back.
Another trick is to isolate the victim from family and friends."The victim is so wrapped up in the story — friends and family will be much more wary and they have a completely different angle because they haven't been manipulated in the same way."It is critical for the criminal to isolate the victim, so they think their friends and family are being the wedge between their loving relationships."People are losing everything in these scams, from superannuation to life savings, and on top there is the loss of a person they believed was the love their life.
A recent study indicates that 15 percent of American adults use online dating websites or mobile applications.
As the number of people looking to meet new people online grows, so does the opportunity for fraud.
A senior Sunshine Coast police detective called it "blatant stupidity" for a 60-year-old woman from Nambour to become involved in a million online love scam.
But a counsellor who works with such victims on a daily basis said the scenario was "way more complex".
When we speak to victims they say they've been connected, prolifically in the initial stages, using extremely validating language and we are all suckers for it," she said."Being told how much they are loved, how wonderful they are …
Ms Malet-Warden said the process results in the brain releasing specific chemicals."So things like dopamine, which causes euphoric feelings that are pre-emptive to falling in love, adrenaline, norepinephrine …This leaves many victims not only embarrassed but also in financial distress.It is important for online users to be on the look-out for online dating and romance scams.Fake profiles may have discrepancies or inconsistencies, like disproportionate height and weight, or be suspiciously vague. Online dating and romance scams often begin like any other online relationship: interested individuals exchange basic information, like their line of work, their city, and their hobbies and interests.Scammers may then ask their victims to leave the dating site and use personal email or instant messaging (IM).
Suli Malet-Warden, an identity security counsellor at national identity and cyber support service IDCARE, said smart people regularly fell for scams.