Kylee is happily married. But online, she pretends to be a 62yo single woman looking for love.

Kylee is happily married. But online, she pretends to be a 62yo single woman looking for love.

Kylee Dennis is a happily married woman. She is 53, and she and her husband have two daughters together.

Recently though, Kylee has been pretending to be a 62-year-old woman named Samantha online. Samantha is single, having been widowed. She's from Sydney, she enjoys cooking, and she's looking for love.

Samantha's dating profiles don't have images, but they have been carefully curated by using a fake email address, and of course, a fake identity. There's an important reason why Kylee has done this - it's all in a bid to uncover just how insidious yet prolific online dating scams are.

The first time Kylee came across an online dating scam was when a girlfriend reached out to her - the friend worried that her mother was being duped by a man she was speaking to online. The friend's suspicions were right.

"She was excited but concerned about her mum, and she wanted me to take a look at this man's profile to see if he was legit," notes Kylee. "I happily did a bit of deep diving, and I also have previous experience of being in the police for 14 years. As soon as I saw the man's photos from his profile, I was concerned."

The man her friend's mum had been speaking with romantically for over six months was not who she thought he was. His photo and identity had been stolen - the man in the photo was a happily married real estate agent in the US. He was not the one messaging. His identity had been stolen and was being used by criminal syndicates and scammers, creating fake dating profiles in a bid to dupe victims out of money.

"I had to break the news to her and she was devastated. She just cried and cried. But it was important for her to know what was happening. He wasn't worth her time and love."

After helping numerous friends and acquaintances find out if they were being scammed, Kylee started her business, Two Face Investigations, where she uncovers whether her clients are at risk. She spends her time analysing the profiles, reverse image searching photos, and compiling a report into whether the person online is legitimate.

One of her recent clients was a 73-year-old woman.

"She had fortunately only been speaking to this guy for a couple of weeks. She showed me his profile and what she had on him, and I had to tell her to step away as it was a scammer - another case of stolen identity," says Kylee.

"His pictures were what gave him away - they looked too perfect, too staged, almost model-like. Like they had been screenshot from Instagram. Thank goodness her heartstrings hadn't been pulled out at this stage, given the short amount of time they were talking."

Another client was a man in his 80s, who had been conned into sending money overseas to a woman he had struck up a close, romantic bond with. He thought he was helping her leave a bad situation. It was all a lie.

The statistics speak for themselves.

In 2023, Scamwatch recorded losses of more than $33 million from everyday Aussies duped by romance and dating scams.

While people aged 65 years and over lost the most money as individuals to dating and romance scams, the majority of victims to romance scams were in the 35 to 44 age group.

From her experience, Kylee says female victims tend to lose more money compared to male victims, and that male victims are more likely to report to Scamwatch or similar services. She feels it comes down to feelings of shame, women often bearing the greater emotional and mental load.

In a bid to see how easy it is to get duped, Kylee decided to set up her 'Samantha' profile on a few different popular dating platforms. She discovered just how easy it was to set up a false account. Kylee also saw just how many scammers there were trying to love-bomb 'Samantha' and use her.

"The purpose was to see if there were legitimate people on the dating apps - and fortunately, there were plenty. But there were also a lot of fake profiles.

"I've ventured into some very dark places whilst looking into these stolen photos that are placed on these dating sites. It's really disturbing. One of the profiles I came across I discovered had used images of a man who had died in 2019 in a plane crash in the US. Criminal syndicates were using images of a deceased man to lure women in. It's just terrible."

The warning signs of online dating scams.

Are the photos too good to be true?

"The first thing to look at is the images. Anything that is grainy in quality could have been screenshot from social media. Also if they look like an absolute model or someone from a catalogue, it might be too good to be true," says Kylee.

Do they keep putting off to meet up?

"I always say that if you can't meet somebody within the first two-ish weeks, at a public spot like a coffee shop, walk away. It's a red flag when they keep putting off meeting in person."

Do they live or say they're overseas?

Interestingly, this is another thing to watch out for, as this tends to be a big excuse from a scammer when asked why they can't meet up in person.

"Often they say they're on a contract or a holiday and will be back in Australia soon. And yet they're still messaging the victim as though they're in Australia with zero consideration for the time difference," says Kylee.

"I had one client that was being scammed by a man who said he was a big hot-shot CEO in the US on sabbatical. The fact he was able to message her all the time was off - not at all like a busy man working for a multi-billion dollar company with limited free time on his hands."

Regardless of their circumstances - are they asking you for money?

"Money is the biggest warning sign of them all. It doesn't matter what they say as to why they need the money, they shouldn't be asking for it from someone they've never even met in person. If they bring up money and suggest they need some from you, even a small step, cut it off."

The emotional impact on online dating scams.

The biggest piece of advice Kylee has is to trust your gut.

If you have a sense that something isn't quite right, or you are uneasy at all, the best option is to walk away. Because there are always safer fish in the sea. Another tip from Kylee is that if you are online dating, be honest about it with your family and friends. Show them as soon as you start to engage with someone online - that way they can keep an eye on your best interests too.

"The saddest part about online dating scams is that I get comments from people saying 'I can't believe that person fell for it, how stupid are they?' It's really victim-blaming. I think we need to change the language about people who go online to find love and get scammed. It's not their fault. They have been victims of a crime," notes Kylee.

"Plus, one in 10 dating profiles are fake. And for those middle-aged and over, it's a hard road to finding somebody and navigating the online world. Compassion is key."

No one deserves to be scammed, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

So in the meantime, while helping her clients and fishing out the fakes, Kylee will keep digging deeper into the dark web of stolen dating profile identities. All in the name of honest love.

For more from Kylee Dennis, you can contact her here.

- Story by Isabella Ross, Mamamia