Romance scams - also known as dating fraud – is when someone creates a false profile on the internet and engages in a romantic relationship online to gain the trust of someone who is then coaxed to give them money.
Romance scams occur through dating websites or online chat rooms or forums. The fraudster will contact you, expressing an interest in you. Over time contact becomes frequent through instant messages, e-mails, text messages and even phone calls. Eventually a long-distance relationship builds up until the victim is fully trusting of the fraudster, believing them to be the person they say they are and revealing intimate details about themselves.
But beware, fraudsters know how to gain the trust of their victims. They use pet names, will send you photographs of someone who they claim is them and ask intimate questions. In truth, it is highly likely that you’re revealing your private details to several members of a criminal gang.
Eventually, the fraudsters become confident that you have enough of an attachment with the character created and they’ll tell you about a problem that they face. This is likely to be that they want to visit you but need money to cover travel costs as they can’t afford the fare or that they bought a ticket but it’s been stolen. Another common story is that a family member or someone who is in their care is seriously ill and requires medical treatment but the cost is too great for them to afford.
They may have asked for naked photographs of you, which they will threaten to send to your family, friends or work colleagues if you don’t give them money.
The warning signs of romance scams:
- You’ve got to know someone on the internet and exchanged emails, text messages and phone calls.
- The person you’ve developed a relationship with is very attractive in the photos they’ve sent you.
- They seem to be very interested in you and have asked lots of questions about you.
- Very early on in the relationship they started calling you by a pet name or such as ‘darling’.
- They prefer to contact you privately through instant messaging and text messages rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
- They don’t give answers or are vague about where they live and work.
- They’ve mentioned that they need money.
What to do next:
- Break all contact with fraudsters immediately.
- Don’t send any money.
- Report the fraudster to staff at the dating website or chat room where you met.
How to prevent being a victim of romance scams:
- Don’t give private or intimate details to someone you’ve never met.
- Never send money or give credit card or bank account details to anyone.
- When communicating with people online speak to people who are local and not from overseas – of course you need to be aware that some fraudsters may tell you that they are in the same country as you when they’re not.
- Never agree to someone’s request when they want to continue communication by email after you’ve just met them on a dating website or online chat room.