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Romance scams

Dating or romance fraud is when you think you’ve met your perfect partner online, but they aren’t who they say they are. Once they’ve gained your trust, they ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons.

You register with an internet-based dating agency or join an online dating chat room. You receive a contact from someone who shows an interest in you. They may be from overseas, or they might tell you they are in the same country as you. Gradually, you develop a long-distance relationship through emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. As the relationship develops, your exchanges become more intimate.

The person you have fallen for will probably send you their photograph and give you a pet name. They may also ask you for naked photos of yourself and/or ask you to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam, particularly if you are female.

The person you’ve developed a relationship with is not who they say they are. In fact, you have probably been in contact with several members of a criminal gang.

Once the fraudsters are confident that you have enough sympathy and desire for them, they will tell you about a problem they are experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money. For example:

  • they’ve arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel costs, visa costs etc. Or they’ve paid for a plane ticket which is then stolen
  • a family member or someone else they are responsible for is ill and they need money for medical treatment.

Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back with more reasons to send them money. If you send pictures of yourself of a sexual nature, the fraudsters will threaten to send them to your family, friends and work colleagues if you don’t go along with their requests for money. If you’ve recorded any sexual acts in front of a webcam, the fraudsters will also use these to threaten you.

Tell-tale signs your online date may be a fraudster:

  • They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
  • They ask you lots of questions about yourself, but don’t tell you much about themselves.
  • They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work.
  • Their profile picture is too perfect – for example they look like an actor or Miss World titleholder.

They start asking you to send them money using a number of different scenarios such as:

  • Claiming to be military personnel based overseas who require funds for flights home or early discharge from the forces
  • Citing medical related issues they need money for such as a sudden need for surgery, either for the fraudster or the fraudster’s family member
  • They’ve arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel costs

Behaviours that put you at risk 

  • Revealing too much personal information, such as your home address, or your full date of birth.
  • Revealing any financial details, or responding to requests to send money.
  • Clicking on links, or opening attachments in emails from someone you've just met on a dating site.

How to date online safely

  • Avoid posting details such as your full name, date of birth, or your home and work addresses on online profiles. Criminals can use these types of personal information to steal your identity.
  • Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred into your account by someone you don't know and trust. These types of requests should always raise a red flag.
  • Never reveal any of your financial details. If a user asks you for them, stop communicating with them immediately and report it to the dating site.
  • Trust your instincts - if you think something feels wrong, it probably is.

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of dating fraud?

  • Report it to Action Fraud.
  • Break off all contact immediately.
  • Report the fraudster to the website or chat room operator.