Romance Scams: What They Are and How to Prevent Them

Romance Scams: What They Are and How to Prevent Them

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and love in the air, you might be feeling head over heels with your newfound online lover. Maybe you haven’t met them yet, but you wouldn’t be alone in this, as a recent study shows that around 1/3 daters admit to falling in love in the virtual world, before meeting; and that number is on the rise.  

You can’t believe you have found someone so perfect. They are sweet, charming, talented, cool, tentative and utterly gorgeous! You haven’t always been dealt the best hand in love; however, it seems your luck is changing because you have finally found your Mrs or Mr Right, right?

Wrong. Turns out all the texts, the late night calls and even that cheesy poem that had you giggling on the train home were all part of a calculated ploy to exploit you for your hard earned cash. Yep, this happens all the time.

With everything happening in the virtual world these days, it is so hard to know what’s real and what’s not; so, keep reading to find out how to spot a scammer and what to do if you you find yourself at risk.

The objective

Romance scammers intentionally set up fake accounts with false identifies. The objective is to gain someone’s trust and once that trust has been built, scammers will try to financially abuse and exploit that person. They do this by making someone fall in love with them, thus becoming vulnerable, so that they can be easily manipulated and ultimately, scammed.

The Romance Scammer could be trying to gather personal details about you in order to access your accounts, or maybe they have an excuse as to why they need you to transfer a large sum of cash. Perhaps they will say that they need flight money to visit you, or that they need money for a life-threatening operation. This might sound ridiculous to you now, but once you completelytrust and love someone, are you just going to let them die over a £2,500 operation?

How to identify a Romance Scammer.

  • Their story changes – They are not coherent about their background and you have noticed that they may have lied about something, but you can’t understand why.
  • Sob story – They have started to pull your heart strings on a particular issue they have, which could be the beginning of them wrapping you up in their financial crisis. 
  • They don’t talk much about themselves – They seem to be very interested in your personal life and background and keep the questions and conversation one way.
  • They declared their love for you too quickly – They also seemed to be pushing for a relationship with you very early on, to make you feel there is a deeper connection. This is also called love-bombing.
  • They refuse to meet in person or video call – They do not allow themselves be seen. This is because they are not who they say they are. They are ‘struggling to get time off work’ and their ‘front camera is broken’. They will often say that they live in a different country to make it difficult to meet and that they have a demanding job.
  • They’re too good to be true – Ask yourself, if they are actually a brain surgeon, athlete, supermodel and a minor Royal in their home country, how do they balance this with volunteering full time to save orphan monkeys. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

What to do if you think you are at risk or have been scammed.

The effect on a person’s emotional health and livelihood from Romance Scammers can be devastating. Due to the rise in online dating and the pandemic, crimes have become more sophisticated than ever and unfortunately these crimes can be hard to prove. If you are a victim, you should not feel ashamed, as this could happen to anyone, but you should get support.

  • If you have been scammed, feel at risk or feel threatened it is important to report this to the police on 101 or 999 for emergencies.
  • If the scammer has your bank pin code or account details, you must contact your bank urgently and let them know. If you have sent money within the past 24 hours, your bank may be able to reverse the transaction if you let them know that the payment is unauthorised.
  • Inform the site that you met this person on, as they will often have their own policies to prevent this. They may be able to access some information about the Scammer which could further support any ongoing Police enquiries.
  • If you have given your passwords away, be sure to change them urgently.
  • If you have been scammed for a significant amount of money, you may find yourself unable to make payments and may be issued with a ‘statutory demand’ from your creditor. You will then be given some weeks to negotiate a payment plan. If you do not engage with this, the creditor can start proceedings to obtain a bankruptcy order against you. If you are in this position, you should get advice on how bankruptcy would affect you. You can find this information at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau: 

With that said, don’t let this stop you from finding someone special this Valentine’s day, but do remember to always be cautious and to protect yourself as a priority against scammers.

If you have been affected by this issue and would like emotional support, you can find someone to talk to at no cost and 24h per day on 116 123 Samaritans.