New figures from Action Fraud estimate that almost £92 million has been lost through dating scams between November 2020 and October 2021.
Those who strike up online relationships between Christmas and Valentine’s Day are statistically the most susceptible to this type of fraud, with a spike of 901 reports recorded by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021.
Romance fraudsters, such as the so-called Tinder Swindler, may appeal to their victim’s compassionate side after establishing a bond. Once you’re lulled into a false sense of security, they’ll start picking your pocket.
So how can you protect yourself, and your relatives, as you navigate the tricky world of online dating?
Thankfully the team at financial comparison site Lending Expert have shared some tips with Indy100 readers on how to avoid a romance scam.
1. Don’t overshare
If you find yourself oversharing lots of personal information, but your love interest shares little about themselves, they could be hiding something. It’s a good idea to keep mum on potential security question answers too, such as your mother’s maiden name and the name of your first pet.
2. Be wary if they cancel seeing you
If your new partner plans to visit you, but something comes up at the last minute which prevents them from coming, be very cautious if it happens again. Whether they’re just flaky or they’re hiding something, it may be a red flag if it happens more than once.
3. Trust your instincts
If your new love interest is bombarding you with generous gifts, and it all feels a bit too good to be true, trust your instincts. There’s a term for this behaviour - love bombing.
4. Get a reality check
It’s really easy to fall head in heels with someone if they’re telling you all the right things. Tell a friend or family member to sense check the request if they want money.
5. Don’t pay for travel costs
If someone you’ve met online lives in a different country and asks for money to come and see you, get suspicious. If you can travel, offer to go and see them instead.
6. Ask for proof of ill relatives
If you’ve recently met someone and they explain a relative is sick and they need money to pay for medical bills, ask for proof - this is a common trick fraudsters use.
7. Never send money if you’ve never met
If someone you haven’t met in person starts asking for money, no matter the amount, explain that you’d rather meet first and seriously question their motives.
8. Slow down
If someone you’ve just met is confessing their love and asking you to move in, be very cautious. If it’s true love, they won’t mind you asking to slow things down.
David Beard, personal finance expert and editor-in-chief of Lending Expert, said it’s best to err on the side of caution and if something doesn’t seem right, speak up.
Beard said: "If your new love interest asks to borrow money and you decline, it shouldn't impact the way they feel about you if they've genuinely fallen in love.
“If they get angry or agitated, that would indicate their heart isn't in the right place.
"Don't allow the excitement of meeting someone new to cloud your judgement - always be ultra-cautious lending or giving money to someone you've not known very long - even if they've showered you with gifts, luxury meals or nights away.
"If you think you've been a victim of a romance scam, don't feel embarrassed.
“It's sadly widespread and important that you report it ASAP to your bank, the dating site or app and Action Fraud to prevent them from doing the same to others".
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