Romance Scams: Don’t Get Scammed This Valentine’s Day

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 13 February 2021

Valentine’s Day is a time for romance. But sadly it is often a time when you can easily be scammed. Here are the top tips from Telstra spokesperson, Darren Pauli from the Security Special Projects Team to protect yourself from romance scams.

The signs to watch out for below, are according to a study conducted by the British Journal of Criminology.

How online romantic scams work

Romance scams are more likely to be encountered during Valentine’s Day as users flock to dating sites. These scams are typically targeted at middle-aged, well-educated women who tend to be more impulsive and trustworthy. Many scammers co-opt identities of social media users, such as military and law enforcement service people to lure victims.

Scammers are using a range of different tactics that are hyper personal and designed to isolate victims including phishing emails and malware. Emails that include subject lines such as “My letter just for you” and “Fell in love with you” are well known in cyber security circles as scammers look to trick victims.

Warning signs to watch out for

According to research published in the British Journal of Criminology, romance scammers often manipulate victims by exploiting their hopes for a relationship. There are four red flags to watch out for if you are jumping quickly into an online romance.


Scammers often try to quickly move communication with the victim off dating and social media platforms and onto private email or messaging. It is important to note that by moving off community sites romance scammers avoid the safety mechanisms that online sites can offer. This can include platforms’ prohibition of requests for money.


Monopolisation means that the scammer will try to consume their victims attention throughout the day to keep them eager and keen.


Degradation is behaviour that makes the victim feel less worthy including name-calling, insults and abusive language.

Emotional or interpersonal withdrawal

While the above techniques are active, psychological abuse also involves passive tactics where romance fraud offenders periodically cut off communication. This results in victims becoming anxious about the status of their relationship or the well-being of the offender.

Five ways to protect yourself from romance scams

  1. Never wire money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  2. Do a Google search of your online match to check if they are who they say they are.
  3. Do not share personal images with a new match, especially if you have not met them in person. Scammers may look to use this material as a form of blackmail.
  4. Romance scams are deliberately ‘hyper-personal’, meaning they are of an overly intense nature that is designed to capture and isolate victims. Watch out for signs of increased jealously and demands for attention and your time.
  5. Watch out for inconsistencies in their story or a reluctance to meet in person or have a video call. This may signal that they are not who they claim to be.


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