Romance Fraud – how to spot a scammer

Romance Fraud in a nutshell

Sadly, romance fraud is on the rise and the news is too often reporting women and men being swindled online. According to information gathered by Lloyds Bank romance scams jumped by 30% in 2022, victims have lost over £8000 on average and are typically aged between 65 and 74 years old.

What is romance fraud?  Also known as dating fraud, it commonly involves a fraudster creating a fake profile on a dating app, social media, or internet dating site purely to commit a crime. Sometimes referred to as catfishing, this crime can happen across any dating, internet website, social media, or app. The scammer will connect with their target, build rapport, and typically try to ‘groom’ their victim to commit fraud or ask them directly for money. The victim thinks they have met their perfect match, with some even receiving marriage proposals.

9 warning signs of a romance scammer:

  • The relationship moves quite quickly, such as declaring their love for you early on.
  • The relationship seems one sided. The person you are chatting to 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. They could even ask to send you money – beware, as this could be a ploy to involve you in money laundering.
  • Criminals may try and steer you away to a less regulated site where your messages can’t be tracked.  Until you are 100% certain, always keep the chat to the designated app or site.
  • Fabricate a story. This may include needing money for a sick relative, apparent ‘risk-free’ investment opportunities, their life is being threatened or are experiencing some kind of crisis.
  • Makes excused not to meet up in person or chat via video. Alternatively, the online meeting is brief and is ‘cut off’ suddenly by an excuse or emergency.
  • Conveying a sense of urgency or being pushy.
  • Extreme behaviour – sudden changes from loving to guilt tripping, threatening or emotional blackmail.
  • Profile photos that look too perfect or professional (for example they look like a model).

Tips to stay one step ahead of romance scams

Never send money to a stranger

If you haven’t met someone in real life, then you can’t be 100% certain they are who they say they are. Do not give money to anyone you have never met or who is a new acquaintance.

Reverse Image search

It can be easy to create fake profiles online. On google search their name and also do a reverse image search – there are also similar websites such as TinEye. Results should show any reused, duplicate or stolen images that may not belong to the person in question, or any suspicious content relating to their name.

Don’t overshare

Scammers are clever and will use all the tricks in the book to gain trust. Avoid putting too much personal information on your social media profiles, especially where you live or local hangouts, think about where you check-in and the images you share. Equally, do not share this information when chatting privately.

Tell a friend or relative

Scammers may ask you to keep the relationship a secret. It’s always wise to share your new romance with a friend as a fresh perspective can often be helpful.

It would never happen to me

Most of us think we would never fall for a scam. However, we’re all just one click away from being scammed when using any digital device or using social media. Scammers are professionals, many are career criminals and even work in groups to target their victims globally. They are also experts at luring their victims with a web of lies, and always will have an answer to every possible curve ball thrown their way.

Been 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 call the police on 101, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.  There is also help for victims by contacting Victim Support. In Scotland you can report a scam to Consumer Advice Scotland on 0808 164 6000 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm) or visit www.consumeradvice.scot.

BogusBuster is packed with handy information on how to avoid and report fraud. Check out our tips to stay safe at BogusBuster.org.