Don't get your heart broken by a romance scam


Financial Crime

Most of us welcome a bit of romance in our lives, don’t we? 💖 And now that the most romantic day of the year is fast approaching, a lot of people will be searching for that someone special.

With recent statistics showing that one in five relationships in the UK starts online, it seems that meeting someone without actually meeting them first is becoming the new norm.

But scammers always have to find a way to ruin everything and are taking advantage of people who are looking for love. The number of romance scams soared throughout the pandemic. Reports to Action Fraud increased by 40% in 2021, and the total loss from this type of scam reached £73.9m 🤯

If you’ve met someone online and you’re starting to get suspicious or doubt their intentions, we’ve got a few key questions you need to ask yourself to find out if they’re trying to steal your heart or your money.

Have you ever seen them in person?

You may think that you have a face to put to the name if your online beau has a profile picture. But scammers usually steal photos from other people to use on their profiles and will always try to dodge requests to video chat or meet up in person.

💡 TOP TIP: If you’re tech-savvy, try a trick from the guys on the TV show Catfish and reverse image search their photo. It can help you spot if their profile and photo are the real thing or stolen from someone else.

Have you ever spoken to them?

So, they email or WhatsApp you 20 times a day but they can’t find the time to jump on a quick call? Sounds very suspicious to us...

Usually, they’ll claim that this is because they’re working overseas, for example in the army, on an oil rig or as a diplomat. These are common jobs for a scammer to use, as it gives them an excuse for why they can’t speak to you on the phone.

Are they doing a lot of listening, and not much talking?

Enough about me, tell me about you! What do you like to do in your spare time? What’s your address again? What was your mother’s maiden name?

Be VERY careful what information you’re telling a stranger online, even if you think you can trust them 🙅‍♀️ You might not see the harm in letting them know your address, but they could be trying to piece together your personal info to use it to their advantage.

They could sell your details to other criminals or use them themselves to apply for loans or credit cards.

Have they ever asked you for money, or to move money around for them?

It may not seem like much, a few quid here and there, but the requests start adding up once a scammer has your trust. One of the main scams fraudsters try is to ask you for money for a plane ticket so that they can FINALLY come and visit. How sweet 🙄

And then come the excuses. The flight’s been cancelled. I’ve lost my passport. I’ve had an accident and need more money for health care. The list goes on! They might also ask you to hold onto some money for them or to transfer money to another account.

In reality, it’s quite the opposite. You could be unknowingly taking part in criminal activity by acting as a money mule. If you’re caught doing this, the worst-case scenario would be a prison sentence. And it could also mean that you are flagged by banks and will struggle to get an account in the future.

Is there anything about your interactions that doesn’t feel right?

It might seem like you’re in a loving relationship, but if they’re really the one for you, should they be asking you for money? Or to move money between accounts when they should be able to do that themselves?

Forget their excuses. Alarm bells should be ringing if what they’re asking you to do makes you feel uneasy or you think it could be illegal. Trust your instincts, because someone could be trying to take advantage of you.

Find love the safe way this Valentine’s Day 💘 There are plenty of genuine people that use dating sites who you might find a connection with. Just make sure you know what red flags to look for, and don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

If you know that any of your friends or family are online dating, make sure you’re checking in with them regularly so you’re alert to anything that sounds shifty. Love is blind as they say, so if they are being targeted by a fraudster they might need you to help them put things into perspective.

Remember, when you’re dating online:

  • Don’t reveal too much personal information (such as your full name, date of birth, contact details and address).
  • Don’t give money or your bank details to someone you haven’t met, no matter how convincing their story is.
  • Stick to the dating site’s messaging service rather than chatting another way, like WhatsApp, text or email.

If you suspect someone you’ve been chatting to online is a scammer, stop contact with them straight away and report them to Action Fraud. If you’ve sent any money to a suspected scammer, contact your bank immediately.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’ll be doing your bit to protect other people who could fall for the same story.

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