Five watch-outs to avoid being swindled by a fake romance
In the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, it’s alleged that Simon Leviev uses dating apps to scam several women out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The money he is said to have conned out of the victims would then be used to seduce other single women with an expensive lifestyle and lavish gifts; a vicious cycle that continued for years, broke many hearts and left women in financial ruin.
But the women in the documentary aren’t the only ones to fall victim to a romance scam.
New figures by Action Fraud show almost £92 million was lost through dating scams between November 2020 and October 2021.
Dating or romance fraud is when you think you’ve met your perfect partner online, but they aren’t who they say they are.
In some cases, criminals will even have video calls with you, luring you into a false sense of security that you’re involved with someone who is genuinely interested in you.
Once they’ve gained your trust, they ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons.
Imagine that you’ve been dating someone for a few months and suddenly they send you a text to say that they’ve been mugged and need £250 to get a place to stay safe that night. What would you do?
It’s easy to see how it starts, and the pandemic has made it even easier for these types of fraudsters to thrive as we lived our lives online more than ever before.
Here’s five warning signs to look out for.
1. They move communications off the dating website/app
A lot of the time, scammers will want to take communications off the dating website as soon as possible.
They will try to convince you to move communications to either Whatsapp, Messenger or SMS messages, as this means there’s no evidence on the dating website if you figure out they’re a scammer.
The theory is, that if a victim doesn’t have any evidence, they can’t report them.
This means that the dating website won’t remove their profile, so they can continue to scam others.
So until you’ve met and trust the person that you’re speaking to, you should keep communication on the dating website’s chat service.
2. They ask a lot of personal questions
Of course, it’s normal for a prospective partner to be interested in you and your life. However, scammers will ask a lot of personal questions.
If a scammer wants to steal your identity, perhaps to take out loans or to undertake criminal activity in your name, they will want to find out as many personal details as possible.
Naturally these topics come up in conversation - but however genuine they sound, if someone starts asking for details like your home address, a photo of your driving license or passport, your mother’s maiden name, or anything about your bank or financial situation, take it as a big red flag.
3. They avoid answering personal questions
If someone is trying to cover up who they really are, they’ll try to avoid answering any questions that may make them identifiable.
A good rule of thumb is if they are refuse to share any personal details, take it as a sign that they may not be who they say they are.
4. They avoid meeting in person
If the scammer is pretending to be someone they’re not, chances are that they’ll try to avoid speaking to you on the phone, over video call or in person.
Excuses may include a broken camera or that they’re not allowed to talk to you on the phone because of their job.
Of course, there is a chance that they are just shy at first, but if this continues, view it as a warning sign.
5. They ask for money
Romance scammers play on your emotions when they ask for cash.
Classic stories that swindlers use is that their wallet has been stolen or they need to help a sick relative – in other words, something that you’d find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.
Once you’ve helped them once, they may keep coming back for more, or alternatively they will immediately disappear and never speak to you again
Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.
Profile photos may not be genuine, so do a reverse image search on Google to see if they appear anywhere else online.
Take a deep dive into their social media accounts. Can you find this person on other social media platforms, and if so, can you prove that they’re genuine?
Does everything they've told you about themselves match their online profile? How long has their account has been active and is it well established?
If you think you’ve been a victim of a romance scam, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed - you are not alone.
Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.
If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101.
Please share this with someone who'd benefit from it.
Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.
Find out what loans you’re eligible for, without impacting your credit score.