Avoiding Cupid’s Poison Arrow Online

2020 has been a strange time for everyone trying to adapt to the new restrictions of the global corona virus pandemic. Being housebound and more socially isolated has seen more people looking to find love online using various online dating sites, apps and social media. However, this has sadly resulted in an increase in Romance Fraud, with Action Fraud reporting a 26% spike in cases in the past year due to the corona virus – a worrying statistic with victims left financially and emotionally hurt.  

What is Romance Fraud? 

Romance fraud happens when a person thinks they’ve met their perfect match online, but it turns out the person is not real, the fake profile has been created by a fraudster to access personal details. Also known as dating fraud, victims have been targeted across many online platforms such as Facebook and Tinder to Match.com and Plenty of Fish. The scammer creates a dating profile and targets an individual to gain their trust, eventually, after weeks, possibly months of believing you are in a safe and caring relationship a request for money may occur. The story given to the victim can range from needing money for investments, an illness, job loss due to the pandemic, a sick relative, legal fees or needing money to travel to meet you… you get the picture.  

How to stay one step ahead of canny criminals online

Red flags

  • Someone who is reluctant to talk about themselves but want to know a lot about you. 
  • Early requests for money. These may be a small sum initially and graduate to a large amount. 
  • Asking for your personal details.  
  • Declaring their love for you quickly. 
  • Wanting to keep the relationship a ‘secret’ or make excuses not to meet or video chat with you in person. Or the online meeting is brief, only to be ‘cut off’ suddenly with an excuse. 
  • Conveying a sense of urgency or being pushy. 
  • Threat of withdrawal – refusing to communicate unless your meet their requests. 
  • Extreme behaviour – guilt tripping, threatening or emotional blackmail. 
  • Threat of withdrawal – refusing to communicate unless you meet their requests.
  • Extreme behaviour – guilt tripping, threatening or emotional blackmail.

Top tips 

  • Never send money to someone you’ve only met online, despite how genuine they seem.   
  • Do not communicate outside the dating platform or app. A criminal may try and steer you away to a less regulated site where correspondence can’t be tracked.  
  • Don’t overshare. This includes your full name, date of birth or address. A harmless fun chat could lead to a scammer finding you on social media and using this information to build rapport or steal your identity. 
  • If you have doubts DO NOT be afraid to challenge the person or not respond.  
  • Ask yourself ‘is this a real person?’. Fake profiles can show images that have been stolen from the internet. By doing a search on their photo or their name you may find out more information.  
  • Scammers are experts in applying pressure – don’t be rushed into making any decisions.
  • Get a second opinion. Ask a friend or relative for their perspective on the situation.

What to do if you are scammed? 

Hopefully you won’t ever be in this position, however if you are asked for money over a dating app or social media, report it immediately to the relevant platform first. If you have lost money contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or the Police on 101.  The police take this type of fraud seriously and have launched a national campaign ‘Fall for the person not for the profile’ this month to help keep people safe. You can read more about this campaign here.

BogusBuster is packed with handy information on how to avoid and report fraud. Check out our resources page for more tips to stay safe online.