Could it be a romance scam

8 February 2024

4 min read

Mobile phone

Could it be a romance scam?

Online dating can be a great way to get to know someone and find love or friendship. But it’s also one way for criminals to try to scam you. UK Finance reports that victims lost a total value of £31.3 million to romance scams in 2022.

Romance scams involve criminals using fake online profiles through dating apps or websites, social media, or chatrooms. They form a relationship with you over time, and gain your affection, confidence and trust. They then ask you for money, gifts, personal or financial information, or even to apply for loans.

Keep reading to understand what signs to look out for and how to protect yourself.

How can I spot the warning signs?

You should be careful when talking to people online.

They seem too good to be true and talk to you a lot

Be extremely cautious if the person you’ve met online:

  • Has perfect pictures of themselves, and of family and friends – these could be pictures stolen from the internet or other profiles
  • Says they have a respectable job which is based abroad, or involves travelling – scammers often claim they work in health, charity, construction, oil, energy, or the armed forces
  • Gives you lots of attention, affection and compliments very quickly – this is known as ‘love bombing’
  • Contacts you very regularly, often daily, and may even seem to be available at any time – there may be more than one person ‘running’ their profile
  • Asks lots of specific and personal questions – especially about things which could be the answer to common account security questions.

They avoid using certain apps and meeting face-to-face

Be extremely cautious if the person you’ve met online:

  • Only wants to speak by direct messaging (such as WhatsApp), text message, email or phone call – scammers try to get you away from the websites and apps that keep a record of your conversations, so that there’s no evidence of a scam
  • Says they want to meet you in person, or makes plans with you, but always has an excuse for why they can’t, or need to cancel
  • Begins to ask you for money or drops hints about financial issues, making you feel obliged to help – for example, if they tell you they have a personal crisis, an ill friend or relative who requires urgent hospital treatment, or need to pay for a flight, food or rent.

How can I protect myself?

Many scammers are master manipulators. They may create fake documents, or fake messages from other fake people, to make their stories more convincing.

By keeping a few important tips in mind, you can keep yourself safe from romance scams while getting to know new people online, especially if you’ve never met them in person.

Be cautious with your money and information

  • Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don't really know or have never met in person
  • Never let your bank account be used to receive money or to move money on for someone else – you could be moving money for criminals without realising
  • Be cautious if anyone asks you very specific questions about your past, and never reveal answers to any common account security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name or your first pet’s name
  • Never display or post financial information, and think twice before displaying or posting personal information online
  • Guard your privacy and trust your instincts – if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Stay aware while getting to know people

  • Be cautious when getting to know people – don't put yourself in danger by trusting people too quickly
  • Check that pictures which are posted or sent to you aren't taken from somewhere else by using reverse image search
  • Only use well-known dating websites, and avoid switching to direct messaging, text or phone calls too quickly
  • Talk to your friends and family about your relationship – if you’re being asked to keep it a secret, it’s mostly likely a scam.

How can I report a scam?

If you think you’ve been a victim of a romance scam, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed – you’re not alone. Scammers are experts in manipulating human behaviour, and that’s why thousands of people fall victim to scams and fraud every year.

We want to help, and our colleagues will listen and not judge. Please contact us as soon as possible.

It’s important to report a scam as soon as possible, so we can start our investigation, and try to get your money back.

What does a romance scam look like?

It can be hard to know whether people you meet online are genuine. Criminals can spend months carefully researching victims and gaining their trust.

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