Aussies warned to be on alert for Valentine’s Day scam targeting lonely hearts

The AFP is warning Aussies about a scam that may affect the lonely over Valentine's Day. Source: Getty Images.

Scams are becoming more and more common in Australia with experts repeatedly warning of the growing threat to our digital lives and bank accounts.

With Valentine’s Day looming, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is urging Australians to be cautious of a ‘pig butchering’ scam that seeks to take advantage of lonely hearts. 

Pig butchering, also known as ‘romance baiting’ is a manipulative and costly financial scam that targets potential victims with the promise of friendship and windfalls.

The AFP, now in possession of a seized pig butchering how-to manual, is warning people to be vigilant by informing the community about the tactics used to target the public.

Offenders usually spend time gaining their victim’s trust and then encourage them to invest in the share market, cryptocurrency, or foreign exchange currencies. They use fake sites which look like legitimate platforms to siphon the money off.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Cybercrime Command Chris Goldsmid said while traditional romance scams were often initiated on dating apps, pig butchering often starts with cold texting individuals on messaging apps.

“Pig butchering does not target individuals with the false hope of a relationship but instead initiates a conversation looking for friendship,’’ Goldsmid clarified.

“Scammers usually say the accidental messages are because of ‘fate’ or ‘divine will’.”

Goldsmid added that the pig butchering scam has four steps:


Displaying a well-polished and successful persona who has investments in cryptocurrency, the share market, or gold, the scammer will reach out to the victim saying they are looking for friendship.


The relationship escalates to a personal level where the scammer encourages the victim to share intimate photos and uses psychological manipulation telling them they need to take more risks in order to achieve their dream life.

Killing/Investment scam

The scammer openly displays their wealth and uses their replica investment platform to entice the victim to invest. The scammer will also provide fake statements to show how the investment is growing compelling the victim to give them even more money.

Cash out

When the victim refuses to invest more or wants to cash out, or after a period of time, the offender will move to cash out of the scam.

Goldsmid urged those who have fallen prey to this scam to not be embarrassed and come forward.

“My message is don’t be embarrassed. Alert your authorities, and think about telling your friends, family or community what happened,” Goldsmid said.

“The more others know about these unscrupulous scammers the harder it will be for them to target others.”

Cyber crime has become an unfortunate part of modern life with Scamwatch data showing $40 million was lost in romance scams alone in 2022, equating to up to $109,000 a day or an eye-watering $4500 an hour.

NAB’s fraud and cybersecurity experts recently highlighted the emerging scams to keep an eye out for in 2024 with NAB Manager Advisory Awareness Laura Hartley saying the ‘scamscape’ was constantly changing. 

These are the top six scams to watch out for this year:

AI voice impersonation scams:  In a world where technology can now mimic human voices, scammers are using AI to impersonate loved ones in distress, manipulating victims into believing a fake crisis. The key to dodging this scam is to stay calm, verify the caller’s identity through other means, and resist the urge to act impulsively.

Term deposit investment scams: Exploiting financial concerns, scammers are pushing term deposit scams promising attractive returns. Hartley advises Australians to be cautious, verify financial institutions independently, and resist the allure of glossy brochures and unsolicited professional follow-ups.

Remote access scams using chat: Perpetrators convincing individuals to download applications for remote access are on the rise. Stay one step ahead by verifying the legitimacy of any remote access requests, avoiding downloads from unknown sources, and keeping your personal information secure.

Romance scams: Romance scammers are out to win hearts and wallets. Whether it’s through social media or dating apps, be vigilant, take your time getting to know someone, and never send compromising photos. If a situation feels too urgent, take a step back and reassess.

Ticket scams: With the summer entertainment season in full swing, scammers are seizing the opportunity to exploit ticket sales. Verify ticket sources, avoid transactions on social media platforms, and be cautious if a deal seems too good to be true.

QR code phishing scams: Unlike traditional phishing, QR code phishing hides malicious links in pixelated squares. Stay safe by scanning QR codes only from trusted sources, avoiding downloads prompted by unfamiliar codes, and being wary of urgent requests.

If you believe you are a victim of cybercrime, report it to ReportCyber.

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