Romance Fraud Scams

Tindler Swindler and Inventing Anna, are popular subscription TV programs that have recently covered the hot topic of identity fraud; a serial con artist luring women into his web of deceit and a conniving imposter masquerading as an Heiress. Addictive viewing and great entertainment, but unfortunately based on true life events.

During the pandemic there has sadly been a massive surge in scammers preying on the vulnerability of those seeking companionship, and using it as an opportunity to cash in. Romance scams often go unreported due to the shame and embarrassment associated with having your emotions crushed and bank account raided. According to a May 2021 report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), romance fraud caused the loss of £14.6 million pounds. (Source: https://www.policeprofessional.com/)

Romance Fraud in a nutshell

Romance fraud or dating fraud is when someone sets up a fake profile on a dating app, social media, or internet dating site purely to commit a crime. Also known 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 use the stolen details to commit fraud or ask directly for money. The victim thinks they have met their perfect match, with some even receiving marriage proposals – romance fraud is cruel on so many levels, and easier to fall for than you may think. 

6 warning signs of a romance scammer:

  • 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.
  • The relationship moves quite quickly, like declaring their love for  

      you early on.

  • Make excuses not to meet up or video chat. Alternatively, the online meeting is brief and is ‘cut off’ suddenly with 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. 

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.

Stay chatting on the app or website

Criminals may try and steer you away to a less regulated site where correspondence can’t be tracked.  Until you are 100% comfortable, keep the chat to the designated app or site.

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.

Don’t fall for a fabricated story

Never be afraid to be assertive, say no, or decline to give an answer immediately. Scammers often apply pressure by using stories about a crisis, their life might be in danger, they have a sick relative or have been offered a fantastic investment opportunity. If you have doubts, do not be afraid to voice them, or just don’t respond.  

Too clever to be conned?

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 will have an answer to every possible curve ball thrown their way.

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 call the police on 101, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.  There is also help for victims by contacting Victim Support.    

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