FRAUDSTERS who use dating apps as a way to swindle money from unsuspecting singletons are becoming increasingly brazen.
Luckily, celebrity dating agent Anna Williamson says there are key phrases to look out for when sparking up a new relationship online which can indicate if you are speaking to Prince Charming or a criminal.
“Whilst most of us yearn for romance, we must be weary of those with different agendas,” she says.
“Romance scammers are on the rise and it’s time for us all to be a little more mindful of those whispering not-so-sweet nothings to us over chat.”
What is love bombing?
In most cases, romance scammers love bomb their victims to create a false sense of security that the digital relationship is real.
Love bombing is excessively and inappropriately showering someone with attention, compliments, promises and more, to lure them into a relationship.
According to Women’s Aid Policy and Practice Manager Lizzy Dobres, “love bombing is a dangerous tactic often used by abusers in the early stages of the relationship”.
What are romance scams?
In the context of romance scams, it is used to trick someone into sending their hard-earned money to a criminal.
Fraudsters will go to great lengths on dating apps and social media, typically through fake or ‘catfish’ profiles, to win their victims’ trust and convince them that they are in a real relationship.
New research from Santander has found almost a third of Brits have been targeted by a romance scammer.
UK Finance data shows that the cruel scams increased last year, with £31.3 million worth of romance fraud reported in 2022, up from £30.9 million in 2021 and £17.8 million in 2020.
Clearly, there’s something in a scammer’s choice of words, as a scary 83 per cent of people who fell victim to a romance scam said it was because of the clever language used by the criminals.
Other factors include the way they were spoken to and the intimate conversations they had with the scammer.
Key phrases to watch out for
Anna warned people not to fall for messages along the lines of, “I’ve fallen for you”, “We’ll be married one day” and “You can trust me” in the early days of dating someone.
Other common messages that scammers use early on are “We’re so alike” and “You know me so well” to create the illusion of closeness.
As soon as lending or borrowing money is mentioned by someone you’re talking to online that you’ve never actually met, it’s time to cut them off.
How to spot and avoid a romance scam
- Is this a real person? Be suspicious if they say they can’t meet in person. Your online love interest will likely claim to live abroad, travel a lot, be in the armed forces or work for an international organization.
- Incomplete profile Scammers use fake personal data to create accounts, and their profile info is usually incomplete. If you search their name online, you’ll likely be left empty handed.
- Sketchy information Fraudsters can slip up by contradicting themselves or telling you outlandish things. Messages are often poorly written or confusing.
- Spectacular photos Scammers will often steal pictures from another profile or create ones using AI. Be wary of photos from someone you don’t know, especially if they look too touched up or like they were taken by a professional.
- They ask for money or account details Criminals will likely ask you to send them money, personal details or bank account passwords. You should never give a stranger personal information or send money.
Anna says scammers will pretend they have a bill that needs to be paid, or that their bank account is frozen, to trick you into “lending” them money.
“Be on red alert if someone you’ve only met online asks you to lend them money, no matter how plausible their reason might seem,” she advises.
“Try to remove the emotion from your decision-making and talk it through with someone else.
“And never lie to your bank if they ask you questions about a payment you are making.”
Santander’s research found that victims lose an average of £2,331.50 to scammers.
The impact of being scammed left four in five Brits saying they had been put off dating and meeting new people, while two thirds have struggled to trust a romantic partner.