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Crime, Internet

Monash expert: Online romance scams – how to safeguard yourself this Valentine’s Day

Monash University 2 mins read

A Monash expert is available to comment on the rise of online romance and investment scams related to Valentine’s Day, how people can protect themselves, and what institutional safeguards can be put in place. 


Professor Monica Whitty, Head of Department of Software Systems & Cybersecurity, Faculty of Information Technology

Contact details: +61 450 501 248 or  

  • Human factors of cybersecurity
  • Online security risks
  • Detecting and preventing cyber scams 


The following can be attributed to Professor Whitty:

“February is a time for love around the world but from a cybersecurity point of view we also see a steep increase in online romance and relationship scams during this time. Such scams tend to peak around Valentine’s Day and Christmas, when people are looking for love or are feeling more lonely. 


“Romance scams don’t start with a request for money, they start with the development of a relationship. So don’t wait until you notice red flags. Start doing some basic checks as soon as you meet someone new online. 


“Check if they have profiles on other dating sites, social networking sites or LinkedIn. Do reverse image searches to see if they come up as part of scam alerts or the news. Get family and friends involved when you are looking for new relationships as they can be more objective in checking the safety of potential partners. The longer a relationship stays online the longer you become vulnerable to that person. It is important to meet them in person in a safe public environment early on.


“Relationship scams are now being increasingly combined with investment scams – called ‘pig butchering’ – a new form of scam where money is extracted to make fake investments in the share market, cryptocurrency or foreign currency exchanges. The whole deal, for romance or investment scams, is founded on building trust and exploiting that trust to extract money.  


“We also see that once people fall victim they tend to be repeatedly caught up in online scams since their personal data becomes vulnerable. If you have been scammed, take preventative measures so you are protected in the future. Report the scam, change all your online passwords, check if your digital identity is secure, and work with not-for-profit organisations like IDCare who can help you navigate the aftermath of a scam. 


“Social networking and dating sites need to do more work to keep criminals out and to keep their clients safe. Governments should distribute consistent and simple messaging and work with industry (e.g. platforms and social networking sites) to recommend safe behaviours and practices for users.”


For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, contact the Monash University Media Unit on +61 3 9903 4840 or

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