Is your online beau trying to steal your heart, or your money?
Published 14 February 2020
This Valentine's Day we take a look at how to tell if your internet lover has a heart of gold, or is having you on.
According to online dating site eHarmony, by 2031 over half of relationships in the UK will have started online.
And internet dating isn’t just for ‘young people’ now. Research shows that there’s due to be a 30% rise in the number of online daters aged 55-64.
The sad thing is, fraudsters have found ways to take advantage of those looking for love. They’ll tell you all the right things, but really they’re waiting for you to let your guard down.
We’ve put together some questions you should ask yourself if you’ve met someone online, and you’re having doubts about their intentions.
Have you ever seen them in person?
Scammers usually steal photos from other people to use in their profiles, and will try and dodge requests to video chat or meet up in person.
They’ll try to steer you away from the site where you met so that you aren’t as well protected. As these kind of sites have their own regulations, the fraudster will want to talk to you over email, text or WhatsApp.
Have you ever spoken to them?
As these fraudsters are pretending to be glamorous model Laura from Ohio when they’re actually Andrew from Nigeria, they will avoid speaking to you on the phone.
They could try and 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 occupations for a scammer, as it gives them an excuse for why they can’t have a chat on the phone with you.
Surely if they’re finding the time to email you non-stop or WhatsApp you 20 times a day, there’s time for a quick phone call!
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 innocently 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 partaking 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.
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 with 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 on to other criminals, or use them themselves to apply for loans or credit cards.
Is there anything about your interactions that don’t feel right?
It might seem like you’re in a loving relationship, but if they’re really your Prince or Princess Charming is it right that they’re 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 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
They say you have to kiss plenty of frogs before you find your Prince, so don’t let scammers put you off online dating.
There are flocks 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 that 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’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 fraudster, stop contact with them straight away and report them to Action Fraud.
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.
If you’ve sent any money to a suspected scammer, contact your bank immediately.
You can call us on 0161 779 5000 if we’re your bank. If you suspect they might have got access to your card you can lock it in the app and order a new one. Or, if they have access to your digital services text “BLOCK” to 81122.