The 'romance scam' is becoming more prevalent as more people received Facebook 'love' messages from strangers who are convincing them to send money.
The 'romance scam' is becoming more prevalent as more people received Facebook 'love' messages from strangers who are convincing them to send money. Contributed

Romance scam targets Northern Rivers

AUSTRALIANS are losing thousands as online catfish's get more creative scamming the vulnerable out of their hard earned money.

Crime Prevention Officer at Richmond Local Area Command David Henderson said 'romance scams' have been around for a long time but what he didn't realise was how prevalent they were in the Northern Rivers.

"This problem is actually bigger than I thought this time last week," Snr Const Henderson said.

"I've learnt that some local people have been hit up with it, male and female.

"One example is a local man has been contacted by someone pretending to be a woman in Bali, he has been sending her money and he has never spoken to the lady, never seen anything but one photo.

"But unfortunately he is convinced that he is in love with her.

"(Another) lady has contacted me via Facebook saying her friend has had the same thing.

"She has been contacted by a man pretending to be an American soldier in Afghanistan, saying he loves her and wants to see her but he needs money to get to Australia."

Snr Const Henderson said the common indicators of the scam would be:

  • Someone contacts you out of the blue.
  • They tell you they love you and want to move to Australia.
  • They are not contactable over the phone.
  • Minimal photos

"The only catch is they need some money to settle some debts, pay for a visa, to bribe somebody in the government, a plane ticket or accommodation," Snr Const Henderson said.

"They will just keep hitting you up for money constantly until one of two things happen, you realise it is a con or you run out of money."

Snr Const Henderson said most victims are targeted by their Facebook profiles, as the predators make theirs to match.

"Quite often people will look at Facebook sites work out where the weakness is for these people and they will colour the scam to meet them," he said.

"I'd always suggest you make your privacy settings as high as possible so you can't be contacted by anybody, I'd also suggest you don't actually list where you live."

Snr Const Henderson is asking people to be more vigilant and cautious on social media and to look out for their friends who may be a bit more susceptible to the scam.

"(We ask) if you have vulnerable friends, people who are a bit lonely, have a mental illness or a bit gullible to ask them questions," he said.

Snr Const Henderson suggests the following questions:

  • Have you actually spoken to them on the phone?
  • Are they making excuses for not talking on the phone or Skype?
  • Are they asking for money?
  • Are they making extravagant promises?

"If the answer is yes to any of those then it could well be a scam," Snr Const Henderson said.

"If in doubt do not sent them money, I would suggest they speak to local police.

"If someone wants to contact me on Richmond LAC Facebook send me a message I will be more than happy to go out and speak to them, at the station or at their home."