“Beware dodgy scammers” sends wrong message

At the behest of the Consumer Affairs Victoria I participated in a widely-covered press interview, jointly with the Minister [The Hon Marlene Kairouz MP: Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation] to provide warnings to people about the dangers of romance scams in the lead up to Valentine’s Day this year. Whilst the press articles covered the full story, the TV news shorts offered the message “Beware dodgy scammers”.  There are a number of problems with this message.

  1. It implies that you can determine up front that these people are “dodgy” and “scammers” and so avoid them, when their success is because they are the opposite of this. They appear respectable, reasonable, capable, financially secure, caring and articulate.  They build intimacy and trust, and only when they have you fully in-love and hooked do they ask you for money.  By then it can be too late, and even suggestions that they are scammers are not believed. Though there might be variations in the types of scams, the mechanism is similar – get you to trust them beyond your own reason.
  2. It gives no real red flags to look out for, such as moving contact off the dating site to email and phone, early and strong professions of love, not being in your local area so unable to meet, constant contact, use of stolen photos, scripted emails, and eventually requests for money.
  3. The impact of being caught in a scam is glossed over, but can in fact be devastating emotionally and financially, both short and long term.

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