How to spot and avoid romance scams

What are romance scams?

Romance scams happen when victims are deceived into ‘false’ relationships by fraudsters who aim to steal their money or personal information. Romance fraud is typically carried out by criminals using fake profiles.

What are the signs?
Scammers can be experienced in spinning stories to lure in their victims. However, there are some red flags that might help you spot them. These include the following:

  • They prefer to move communications away from dating websites. They may suggest that you move to instant messaging, text or phone calls instead
  • They ask a lot personal questions about you
  • They avoid answering personal questions about themselves. The details that they do tell you seem made up or don’t reflect reality. For instance, they may say that they’re university educated, but their spelling and grammar is poor
  • They try to establish a bond quickly. For example, they may give you an endearing pet name
  • They ask for financial help. They may also tell you about money problems in the hope that you’ll offer to help
  • You never meet them in person. They may promise to want to see you, but offer excuses which delay this, like financial troubles
  • You perform a reverse image search of their profile photo and it seems to belong to someone else

How to protect yourself
Dating websites and apps can be useful tools for meeting someone new. It’s wise, though, to be careful when communicating with potential romantic interests. Here are some safety tips:

  • Don’t share personal details
    If you share personal information like your full name, date of birth and home address with a stranger, you may not know what they’ll do with it. Try not to share personal details online with people whom you already know, either – you may end up sending it to a fraudster pretending to be them. You should also be careful when picking your user name on dating websites – don’t include personal information like your location (for example, ‘JaneFromLondon’).
  • Don’t send or receive money
    Avoid sending money to or receiving it from anyone you’ve met online, not matter how convincing their story is. This applies to cash as well as your bank account, credit card or other financial details. If the request is coming from someone you think you know, check with them offline to ensure that it’s really them.
  • Use trusted dating websites
    Fraudsters tend to want to take their criminal activity off reputable dating websites as soon as possible. They’re likely to try to convince you to interact with them via social media or text messaging. This is so that the dating website has no proof of them asking you for money. If you’re in touch with someone on this type of website, communicate with them through the site’s messaging services.
  • Don’t share personal contact details
    Use a website that will allow you to keep your personal details private until you’re ready to share them. These include your contact details, such as your phone number or email or home address.
  • Think twice before using your webcam
    Be careful when using your webcam with a new online love interest, even if it’s someone whom you think you know. The footage could be used against you. This applies to cameras on all devices, from computers and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
  • Trust your instincts
    If you feel like something is wrong, it may be. Be careful.

How to report it You can report fake dating profiles to the websites that they’re posted on. This will help the sites to close down any fraudulent accounts.

If you’ve lost money to a romantic scammer or think that they may have stolen your personal information, you can contact Action Fraud, who treat reports in confidence.

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