Valentine’s day is nearly upon us and, unfortunately, that means online dating scams are set to rise by 300% this month.
Unbelievably there are a whole load of very nasty fraudsters looking to make money taking advantage of those looking for love. In fact, 4,500 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, with victims reporting to have lost over £50 million!
How do the scams work?
The most common form of online dating scam involves a fraudster creating a fake profile and targeting a victim, often divorced or widowed women with money in the bank.
Out of the blue the scammer will come up with a sob story and ask for emergency money – they may say their child has fallen ill or their mother has been evicted.
The victim, thinking they have some kind of relationship with the fraudster, will then feel guilt-tripped into handing over cash.
It might sound like something you’d never fool for but they play the long game – developing a close relationship over several months so by the time they make the request the victim is emotionally vulnerable.
This is a particularly vicious scam – not only can it be very costly (people have lost tens of thousands of pounds) but it targets people at their most vulnerable and can leave them brokenhearted.
What should I look look out for?
- Be instantly suspicious of anyone you haven’t met asking for money or personal details online and NEVER hand anything over
- Alarm bells should go off if they want to communicate via email or an alternative messaging system rather than through the dating site – this may well be so they can’t be policed by the site
- Fraudsters often want to make connections quickly so they may use language like ‘fate’ and ‘love at first sight’ – most people wouldn’t send something like this during early messaging
- Excessive spelling or grammatical mistakes are often a sign that the person is not who they’re claiming to be
- Trust your gut. If something feels off, you’re probably right
I’ve been a victim of one of these scams – what should I do?
Many people who have found themselves a victim of online dating fraud never report the crime because they feel embarrassed.
If you’ve been a victim, don’t feel embarrassed (you’ve done nothing wrong!) and definitely do report it – otherwise the fraudster will just move on and con someone else!
Tell Actionfraud.police.uk – they are compiling a database of these criminals and it will help others if you give them the details.
Don’t let these frauds put you off online dating, more and more people are finding love this way, just keep your wits about you and remember to follow your head as well as your heart!
Have you ever been contacted by a suspicious ‘love interest’? Perhaps you’ve been a victim of one of these scams? Let us know in the comments below.