We’re all familiar with those dating horror stories – a couple meets online, they build a relationship, one persuades the other to send them money (for various reasons) and fall-out ensues. This classic scenario happened only recently, when a woman was defrauded £250,000 by the person she thought she was in a relationship with.
You may think that you’d never fall victim to something like this, but you never know the ways in which your judgement can be clouded when you think you’ve met ‘the one’. To help you stay vigilant, follow our helpful tips and tricks.
Fraudsters will often show you glamorous pictures of themselves to draw you in. But alarm bells should start to ring if they make excuses not to speak to you on the phone, or live video chat with you. With technology as it is, most people should now have a built-in camera on their phone, tablet or laptop – so there should be no excuses for avoiding this.
If they say that they only have access to a camera, ask them to take a photo holding a unique phrase and send it to you. This should confirm who you’re talking to. Alternatively, you could use the Google Goggles app or Google Images to see whether the original image they sent you pops up anywhere else online. If the same image comes up with a watermark or a different name associated to it, then you should be suspicious.
Too much, too soon
In a bid to form a bond with you, scammers often try to move your relationship on very quickly, making grand commitments and describing themselves as your ideal partner. Once you’re caught up in the love story and feel an emotional connection, they’ll try to persuade you to send them money, often saying it’s for an ill relative, or that they’re in a dire situation like stranded in a foreign country.
No matter the reason, you should never send money to a person in a foreign country that you’ve never met. Equally, you should never accept money from them into your bank account, as you may be committing a criminal offence of money laundering.
A con-man (or woman) will want to steer you away from communication on a legitimate dating website where they can be monitored by staff. So be wary of anyone that wants to talk to you through email, text or even phone immediately after meeting.
Another warning sign to look out for is if they tell you to keep your online relationship a secret. This is a ploy to try and isolate you from your family and friends and avoid anyone else from seeing the scam for what it really is.
So what should you do?
Ask a lot of questions – fraudsters are often reluctant to give personal information about themselves, asking you a lot of questions but not giving much back in return. Look out for this and try to be selective about the information that you give out. If someone is not telling you much, try to dig a little deeper. Ask them what the famous landmarks are in their area, verify these online and if they get them wrong or misspell them, you could be being duped.
Have your wits about you – we’re not saying to have your guard up with every single person that you talk to online but just use your common sense. If someone has the tech know-how to set up a profile on a dating website but doesn’t have a Facebook account, then you should be suspicious. The same goes for if their social media accounts were set up at the same time as their dating profile.
We hope this guide has helped to give you a better idea of the different ways in which you can be scammed online. For further information on dating or romance fraud, click here.