Don't get your heart broken by a romance scam


Financial Crime

Love is all around us, but unfortunately scams are too! And now that the most romantic day of the year is fast approaching, a lot of people will be on the lookout for that someone special to spend it with.

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

However, this is a scammers dream, and they love to take advantage of those who see the good in people while looking for a partner. To make things even dreamier for them, the number of romance scams absolutely soared throughout the pandemic, making it easier than ever for them to succeed.

If you’ve recently met a catch online and you’re starting to get a little suspicious or possibly even 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?

If you’ve got a keyboard warrior on your hands and receive multiple texts or emails a day, but for some reason they can’t jump on a facetime or call, it’s a red flag! 🚩

One of the possible fibs they could tell is that 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, - but now you know better! 😉

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. It could also mean that’re flagged by banks and will struggle to get an account in the future. Definitely not ideal!!

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. Always 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:

Keep that personal information personal! Avoid giving out your full name, date of birth, contact details and address unless you’re certain they’re legit.

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 on WhatsApp, or through text or email.

Trust your gut!

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 a really great deed, protecting other people who could be victimised by the same person.

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