It can be wonderful to start a new romantic relationship. Along with the usual nerves and trepidation – it’s also exciting! Dating apps and websites are now big business, so for many people, it’s become the norm to meet someone online rather than through friends or work.
However, as with anything you do online, it’s important to watch out for scammers who aren’t acting honestly.
We’ve put together a quick guide on what to be aware of when it comes to spotting ‘romance fraud’ online.
What is romance fraud?
Romance fraud, or dating scams, can happen to anybody. It will often involve someone using a fake identity, combined with a range of deceptive tactics, to start a romantic relationship. They then aim to exploit that relationship for financial gain or other fraudulent activity.
What signs should you look out for?
Unfortunately, romance fraud is common in the UK. Scams typically take place on online dating apps and websites, on social media, or by email. Common things to be aware of include:
- Fake profiles: Scammers create fake profiles to attract victims.
- Building trust: Once the scammer establishes a relationship, they work to quickly build trust and an emotional connection.
- False stories: Scammers often use complex stories, such as financial difficulties or medical emergencies, to manipulate people.
- Requests for money: Once they gain the victim’s trust, scammers request money for many reasons, including travel, family issues, medical bills or business opportunities. They often make their request seem urgent to encourage you to act without considering it properly.
- Identity theft: In some cases, scammers will try to obtain personal information, such as financial or login details, to commit further fraud.
How can you avoid them?
Be cautious about starting new relationships online. Be wary of requests for money or personal information from someone you haven’t met in person. Always try to verify their identity and report anything suspicious to the admin team of the website or app. There is often a ‘report’ link you can use.
To avoid scams, try to:
- Be sceptical of online identities including profiles that seem too good to be true. Look for inconsistent information.
- Don’t share personal information such as your address, phone number, or financial details until you’re sure the person is genuine.
- Verify people’s identity using video or phone calls, as they may avoid these if they are a scammer. Try reverse image searches on their profile picture to check it doesn’t appear elsewhere.
- Look for inconsistent stories, changing behaviour, or anything else that makes you uneasy.
- Stick to reputable dating websites and apps with safety measures in place and report suspicious activity. Don’t be tempted to move your relationship to a different website or app.
- Never send money to someone you’ve only met online, especially if it’s for an emergency. Be wary if the someone starts talking about finances early in the relationship.
- Trust your instincts if something feels off. Don’t be afraid to stop talking to suspicious people.
- Keep family and friends up to date with people you meet. They can provide advice if they think anything is suspicious. Scammers may encourage you to keep your relationship secret to prevent you from doing this.
- Stay up to date with common scams and tactics. Police websites often have good resources.
- Report anything suspicious to the dating website to protect yourself and other users.
What should you do if you think you’ve been scammed?
Scammers often prey on emotions. So, if you suspect you’re being scammed, stop communicating with the scammer and report them to the relevant website or app. If necessary, contact the police.
For more information and advice on online scams take a look at our Guide to Fraud and Cyber Awareness.