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When Sue*, a woman in her 80s turned to Tinder, she thought she met someone special. Instead, she nearly parted ways with her life savings.

Sue entered NAB’s Brandon Park Branch with $10,000 cash and a small piece of paper with account details written on it ready to make a deposit.

This is when the red flags were raised for Branch Manager Randi Dias.

“The account details the customer had written down was for a bus driver in WA, but she told us the payment was for painting her house here in Victoria, so that was the first of the red flags that jumped out at us,” Randi said.

Randi then took Sue aside to find out more about the transfer she was attempting to make, and the red flags kept coming.

“The customer was very open and chatty, and told us about her boyfriend of 12 months who she met on Tinder but hadn’t yet met face-to-face.”

When Sue showed Randi the WhatsApp messages between the two, it confirmed Randi’s suspicions this was a scammer trying to take advantage of someone.

The ‘boyfriend’, in this case, was a criminal pretending to be an oil rig worker in Malaysia with an elaborate story about being locked out of his Australian bank accounts and needing help from Sue to access some money and then get back to Australia.

“The scammer knew all the tricks and their text messages were all about creating a feeling of social connection, which is exactly what people on dating apps like Tinder are often looking for,” Randi said.

Through her chat with Randi, the penny eventually dropped for Sue and, although embarrassed, she was relieved to be able to come out of this without losing her money.

“It’s so heartbreaking telling people, who are kind and trusting like Sue, they appear to be caught up in a romance scam, but I’m so grateful we were able to help Sue and she didn’t lose her money.”

Love hurts

Sadly, Sue isn’t alone. NAB customer reports of romance scams have increased 29% year-on-year.

More broadly, Scamwatch estimates Australians lost $33 million to romance and friendship scams in 2023.

NAB Executive, Group Investigations Chris Sheehan said it was vital Australians know how to recognise the red flags of romance scams.

“These scams can have a devastating impact – both financial and emotional – and we see people of all ages, genders and demographics targeted,” Mr Sheehan, a former Australian Federal Police executive, said.

“While many Aussies now start long and successful relationships online, it is vital to know how to recognise a potential partner from a scammer.

“Romance and friendship scams re-enforce the need for a co-ordinated, national approach to the scam epidemic, given many start on dating apps, social media platforms or messaging apps.”

NAB has run ads about romance scams across dating websites and apps like Tinder.

The bank is also strengthening its digital payment channels to help detect and prevent scams, including expanding its real time payment alerts.

Customers may receive a real time payment alert if NAB’s fraud system detects a digital payment to a potential romance scam payment.

“On average, we’re seeing our customers abandon $250,000 worth of payments every day since our real-time payment alerts were introduced to the NAB app and Internet Banking in March 2023,” Mr Sheehan said.

Read more about how to recognise the red flags of a romance scam at:

Romance scams on the rise: NAB shares top tips to avoid more than a broken heart

Online romance scams | Signs to look for and helpful resources

*Customer’s name changed.

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