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Don't become a victim of dating fraud

You probably know someone who found love through a dating website - perhaps you did yourself. You may also have seen cases of people who have been misled by a potential suitor whose profile photo is a 'stretch' of the truth.

Well, a much darker side of this behaviour would be if the person you’d been talking to, claimed to be falling in love with you, but then explained they needed money from you to:

a) visit you
b) get out of trouble
c) get medical help
d) all of the above

Innocent people are losing thousands of pounds through this kind of scam.

It might surprise you to learn that romance/dating fraud is a big, and growing, crime. According to Action Fraud, one person reports having fallen victim to a dating fraud every three hours.

This might also be the tip of the iceberg, as many people are too embarrassed to report it. As well as feeling angry they might be feeling guilty, fearful or heart-broken.

This kind of fraud is often run by networks of criminals based overseas. They use sophisticated methods, investing time and resources in developing a ‘relationship’, building trust and emotionally manipulating their targets.

Fraudsters often seize on circumstances in a person’s life that can make them especially at risk. For example, they might see that the person has been divorced or bereaved and build that into their own story to create a bond. They might ask for undressed images or video from their victims, resulting in further blackmail.

This means that when the fraud is eventually revealed, the person has not only lost a life-changing amount of money – the average loss is a shocking £10,000 – but they also feel the emotional blow of the loss of an intimate relationship. This can result in serious consequences for their health.

More and more people are using dating websites. The average age of a romance fraud victim is around 50. A quarter of victims are in their 50s, with people in their 60s and older also affected. But it impacts everyone – younger people, and men and woman – almost equally.

Dating websites can be a great way to meet someone and start a relationship, but we want everyone to use the internet safely.

Here are five online dating tips:

  1. Get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions – don’t rush into an online relationship.
  2. Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly-used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
  3. Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
  4. Never send money to someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
  5. Don’t move the conversation off the dating site until you’re confident the person is who they say they are.

Romance fraud in numbers

  • £27m: Amount of money the UK public lost to romance fraudsters in a year (November 14 - Otcober 15)
  • 2 out of 3 romance frauds originate online
  • 71% of people who've used dating website say people misrepresent themselves on their profiles.

Statistics sourced from Action Fraud

Where to get help

If you think you, or someone you know, has fallen victim to a scam please contact Action Fraud or read our guide on Avoiding Scams.

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Last updated: Oct 16 2017

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