SPOTTING ROMANCE FRAUD
People who have fallen victim to romance scams tend to report the same pattern. If you or someone you know is using online dating or friendship sites and sees any of these signs, it may indicate you or they are being scammed:-
- Generally, the scam starts with an initial contact by the scammer. The scammer may be a member of the same online dating site as you or any online forum you have joined. The scammer may also contact you on social media such as Facebook.
- Their profile picture is very attractive. It’s common for scammers to use stolen photographs of beautiful people. You can check whether someone’s profile picture is associated with anyone else by accessing the website in Google Chrome, right-clicking on the picture and then clicking ‘Search Google for image’. Google will then display any other websites that the image is on. If the person seems to have a different name on other websites, chances are they are tricking you.
- The scammer asks you a lot of questions about yourself. This is because the more information they know about you, the easier you will be to manipulate. The scammer will spin a tale about him or herself as well. Eventually, you begin speaking over the phone. This stage can last for weeks, even months.
- The discussion is friendly at first but turns romantic very quickly. They shower you with compliments and claim to be falling in love with you. Victims usually report that this shift occurs very early on in the relationship – so if it all seems to be happening too fast, it might very well be a scam.
- Their story, or parts of it, change over time. If someone is making up their life story, it can be easy to forget what they’ve said before. If some part of their story doesn’t sound quite right or match what they said last month, that could indicate they are lying.
- Their grammar and spelling are poor. Many scams originate overseas. If the scammer tells you they’re from the UK but writes as if English is not their first language, this should be a red flag.
- They refuse to Skype or video call you, or meet in person. They always find an excuse as to why they can’t do this.
- Eventually, the scammer asks you to lend them money. They use any number of reasons: they need help to pay for the flight or other transport to meet you. They are in some sort of trouble. They need money to pay for medical care, either for themselves or someone close to them. Or they have a great business or investment opportunity that could benefit both of your futures.
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM ROMANCE FRAUD
Just because there are some mean, dishonest people out there doesn’t mean you have to stop using dating sites altogether. You just have to be aware that scammers do exist, and follow some simple rules to protect yourself online:
- If you’re using social media sites like Facebook, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Don’t give away too many personal details about yourself online. Revealing your full name, date of birth and home address could lead to your identity being stolen.
- NEVER send or receive money or give away your bank details to someone you’ve only met online. If anyone asks for your financial details stop communicating with them immediately and report them to the dating site.
- Use reputable dating sites. Fraudsters will want you to quickly switch to using text messages, social media or telephone so there is no evidence on the dating site of them asking you for money, so keep communicating through the dating site messaging service.