Scrabble Go Could Be an Unlikely Place for Romance Scams

Scrabble Go Could Be an Unlikely Place for Romance Scams

Scrabble Go is perfect for those wanting to log in for a non-committal game with a stranger but like Words With Friends before it, people are complaining it’s rife with harassment and potential scams.

Scrabble Go launched worldwide in March 2020 giving Scrabble fans the chance to play online against friends, family and strangers around the world. It’s that last part that seems to be causing some people a bit of trouble.

In a thread on Reddit Australia, user u/Mishy1967 says many games result in unwelcome comments from strangers wanting to know their private numbers on WhatsApp or to initiate private messages. If the user declines to hand over those details, some have retaliated by forfeiting matches.

Gizmodo Australia has contacted the Reddit user to understand how widespread the issue is.

The ACCC has confirmed with Gizmodo Australia there have been two romance scam reports from the Scrabble Go app this year since its release three months ago, though neither have resulted in financial loss. However, two further scams from earlier this year reported on the previous Scrabble app — which was discontinued upon Go’s release — cost the victims $650 in total.

The app’s publisher, Scopely, told us an upcoming update would give users the option to stop private chat requests from strangers.

“As part of a scheduled update, starting on June 15 a new ‘Mute Public Chat’ privacy setting feature will be rolled out to players,” a Scrabble Go spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia.

“When enabled, players will only receive chat notifications and messages from players they already know and are connected with as a Facebook Friend, Favorite, or via their synced Contacts, allowing for even greater control over their chat experience.”

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Four incidents in 2020 sounds minimal but there have been countless more happening on familiar apps — namely, Words With Friends.

Scammers stole millions from Australians through apps last year

Earlier this year, the ACCC’s Scamwatch released figures for 2019 showing millions of dollars had been fleeced from Australians through scams on seemingly innocent apps. Words With Friends ranked highest outside of dating and social media apps, according to the ACCC, with 38 scam reports resulting in $598,075 in losses.

The largest single app has been Instagram with 347 reports filed over the whole of 2019. This resulted in $975,925 being stolen from unsuspecting Australians.

While Words With Friends had far less reports of scams, they resulted in much higher losses — $15,739 per scam on average — compared with Instagram.

“We’ve seen an increase in reports from people who did not originally seek an online relationship but have been caught up in a dating and romance scam,” ACCC’s deputy chair Delia Rickard said in February.

“No longer are dating websites the only contact method for dating and romance scams, with an increasing number of reports coming from these emerging websites and apps.”

Sadly, those numbers tend to skew toward older women at just over 75 per cent, or $21.5 million of the total $28.6 million figure, being scammed from females.

Scamwatch recommends being alert to the possibility of a scam when speaking to strangers online. Sharing personal details, especially financial ones, is a big ‘no’. Scamwatch recommends that you cease speaking to someone who asks for favours or money.

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Update: This article was originally published on June 12 but has since been updated to include Scrabble Go’s response.