Love Bomb Reveals Romance Scam

National Australia Bank

Maxine* was determined to transfer money for her international love but when she was unsure of who she was sending the money to, her NAB banker became determined to get to the bottom of it.

In late February, Maxine*, a lady in her 60s, came into the Cranbourne branch in Melbourne’s outer southeast wanting to deposit $2,000 into an account, the only catch was she didn’t know the recipient’s surname when asked by NAB Customer Advisor, Dilan Pathirannahalage.

This immediately triggered a red flag for Dilan, so he started scanning for more clues about what was really going on.

Text messages reveal the truth

Maxine scrolled through her text messages to find the name, and showed the thread to Dilan, who noticed very affectionate language in the previous text messages.

“The messages were very lovey dovey, and looked like they were getting increasingly coercive,” said Dilan.

Dilan knew he needed to treat the situation with care, so he took her aside into a meeting room to find out more.

The elaborate lie

Maxine was adamant that the money was to help her boyfriend who was sick and needed the money for treatment.

“She told me her boyfriend, who she met on social media, lived in Turkey and needed to fly to the UK for treatment, but his account had been frozen so was unable to receive the funds from her,” Dilan said

“He told her to instead send the money to his friend in Sydney who could then transfer him the money. The reason she didn’t know who she was transferring the funds to was because she had never met the person on the other end of the line who she thought was her boyfriend, and so didn’t know their friends either.

“Even though the holes in the scammer’s story were clear to me, she was blinded by her love for him. These criminals are cunning and will prey on people’s kindness to steal their money.”

Then came the final red flag, the scammer called Maxine in the middle of her conversation with Dilan to ask when she was transferring the money.

Seeing through the scam

“I contacted the Fraud team and they helped investigate and take action,” [AH1] [ES2] Dilan said.

“I needed to act fast to convince Maxine not to deposit the money into the account. I said ‘I would never do this if I were you. I believe you are being scammed’.

“In the moment, customers don’t see you as someone protecting them from losing their money. You are the person who is breaking their heart.

After the penny dropped

Dilan spent time with Maxine explaining why this was a scam.

“She was thankful for me intervening with the transaction, which had saved her from losing a whole paycheque,” Dilan said.

“For me as a banker, we have so many customers line up and we want to help them as quickly as possible. I was glad to be able to spend the extra time with Maxine to stop her from falling victim to a romance scam.

“I want everyone to know that if you’re not sure, just ask someone. We’re here to help.”

Love hurts

Maxine 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.”

*customer’s name has been changed.

/Public Release. View in full here.