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.
Are you a victim of dating fraud?
- You’ve developed a relationship with someone you’ve met online via emails, text messages and phone calls.
- The new love of your life looks like a supermodel in the pictures they send you.
- They ask you lots of questions about yourself but don’t tell you much about themselves.
- They quickly start calling you by a pet name or use endearing terms such as ‘darling’.
- They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and, texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
- They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work.
- They start asking you to send them money.
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.
- Do not send any more money.
Protect yourself against dating fraud
- Trust your instincts. If you think something feels wrong, it probably is.
- Guard your privacy.
- Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust.
- Communicate with people locally and not from overseas, although you should be aware that someone might tell you they are in the same country as you when they are not.
- Never reply to communications from someone who you meet on a dating site or chat room and then wants continue the communication by email.