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AFP offers advice on avoiding online relationship scams | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | | #dating

No one likes to be alone over the holidays, but the Australian Federal Police is warning Australians to be aware of inadvertently becoming money mules via scam online relationships.

The warning comes off the back of a joint operation between the AFP and Europol, which led to the arrest of 21 scammers in Australia and 2,469 worldwide. The operation — European Money Mule Action 8, which is an annual campaign was targeted at money laundering conducted through the employment of “money mules”.

Money mules generally believe they are engaging in a legitimate money transfer on behalf of an apparent partner but are in fact helping launder cash made via illegal means. 

Fifteen Australians have been identified as transferring money on behalf of criminals and in the words of the AFP, they all thought they were doing it for love, according to Chris Goldsmid, the AFP’s Commander of Cybercrime Operations, in an announcement.

“Romance scams are a common method for criminals to enlist money mules because they put pressure on them emotionally,” Commander Goldsmid said.

The AFP gave a few examples of how this can work. A scammer, who has successfully begun a fake relationship with someone, might ask for help transferring money in an emergency, claiming some technical limitation and needing help. They may claim that an important medical procedure cannot go ahead, and a hospital is having trouble receiving the funds.

The scammer then transfers the money to their victim, who then passes the money on to another scammer.

“Criminals will invest a significant amount of time – sometimes years – building what seems to be a legitimate relationship with their victim,” Commander Goldsmid said.

“They will express their love for the victim and in some cases, promise marriage but will often have a complicated story about why they cannot meet in person.

“Once they’ve gained their victim’s trust, the criminal will ask them to set up a new bank account or will transfer money into their existing account with a request to forward the funds offshore to people claimed to be their friends, family or businesses.”

The money mule may end up even profiting from the crime, though without realising it.

“The criminal will generally give the victim extra money as a gift and to help strengthen their trust,” Commander Goldsmid added.

“People should question why someone needs to use their bank account to transfer money offshore, rather than doing it themselves.”

If you believe you’re a victim of such a scam, inform Report Cyber immediately and contact your bank.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

AFP offers advice on avoiding online relationship scams


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Last Updated: 23 December 2022

Published: 30 December 2022


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