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Would you send money or give your bank details to someone you’ve never met? No? Right answer.

Now what if that was someone you’d been chatting for a while, who you thought you could trust…

This is exactly how a romance scam works. Fraudsters use fake online profiles to form relationships with their victims. Then as the relationship grows the scammer will ask the victim for money, information, or to transfer their money through the victim’s bank account.

So ahead of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at the warning signs that your sweetheart is actually a scammer. 

They ask a lot about you, but don’t reveal much themselves

Be suspicious if someone you’re chatting to online asks you lots of personal questions. Fraudsters try to get as much information about you as possible, which they might later use to steal your identity.

And because you trust them, you might let your guard down and reveal things which you wouldn’t otherwise (such as your full address or bank details).

The fraudster won’t be too keen to reveal anything too personal about themselves though. So if they keep dodging your questions, it’s time to end the chat.

Being eager to talk away from dating sites

If you’ve met someone online and you get on well, you probably won’t be alarmed when they ask to chat by phone or social media instead.

But this is exactly what fraudsters do. They might claim that their subscription to a dating service is running out to rush you into talking by another means.

Whatever their excuse, they want the conversation to move off the dating site fast so the site has no proof that you were asked for money.

Dating sites allow users to report suspicious behaviour, so chatting through these services is much safer than texting or using social media.

Everything moves too fast

They message you on one day, they profess their love for you the next, and before long you’re planning a wedding.

Fraudsters want to establish a bond and gain your trust quickly. So they’ll do whatever they need to do to convince you – whether that’s an affectionate pet name, a confession of love, or the promise of a life together.

Even if you have strong feelings for them, be cautious if their expressions of love don’t fit with the amount of time you’ve known each other. Saying ‘I love you’ after a matter of days is a big warning sign.

Their pictures look too professional

Everything on a fraudster’s dating profile will be fake, including their pictures.

Sometimes they might take them off a stranger’s social media profiles, other times they might use professional images of actors or models.

So if all their pictures are professional quality, or their pictures don’t match their description, they’re probably not who they claim to be.

But luckily, fake images are pretty easy to spot.  A quick reverse image search using google or tineye.com will tell you where else on the internet an image has been used.

And if they’ve used fake photos, that’s probably not the only thing they’ve lied about.

You never meet them

If the person you’re chatting to keeps making excuses not to meet up, you’re right to be suspicious.

In many romance scams, the fraudster claims that they live or work overseas. And if you ask to meet them, they might ask you for money to pay for flights or visas. Or they got into some financial difficulty while abroad and they need money to get back to the UK.

Be especially suspicious if they claim to be from the UK, but their English is poor. That’s usually a pretty good sign that they’re not who they say they are.

Whatever their story, don’t send or receive money from them if you’ve not met. Until you’ve met, you won’t know for sure that they’re genuine.

Look out for scammers this Valentine’s Day

Don’t let scammers put you off looking for love online. Plenty of genuine people use dating sites too, so if you’re aware of the warning signs and you trust your instincts, you should be OK.

Our tips for safe online dating:

• 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’ve not met, no matter how convincing their story is.
• Stick to the dating site’s messaging service rather than chatting through other means.

If you suspect someone you’ve been chatting to online is a scammer, report them to Action Fraud.

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