Keep safe when online dating
Romance fraud is where someone creates a fake online profile and after gaining the trust of an individual, uses their relationship to request sums of money. Fake profiles will often feature photos taken from other people online and may pose as a US army officer or businessman based overseas. Monetary sums will be requested to pay for urgent medical care or even plane tickets to visit the UK, usually alongside a story designed to elicit sympathy and on the promise of it being repaid.
These fake profiles will typically be on dating websites and apps but we are now seeing a number of incidents where victims have been targeted on gaming applications which allow players to communicate with each other. Although the requests for money start small, they quickly escalate and many victims have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds to these fraudsters.
The individuals who undertake romance fraud are highly skilled in both earning trust and cultivating what feels like a loving relationship so the impact on victims can be huge – financially and emotionally.
There can be a perception that the people who fall victim to romance fraudsters are of a certain age or gender but the reports we receive show that literally anyone can be taken in by these calculating criminals. We’ve seen both men and women targeted with some as young as teenagers right up to those in their eighties.
If you’ve met someone online, read the following advice to keep yourself safe:
- Have you ever seen them? Fraudsters will usually take photos from other people online to use in their profiles and will likely never take part in a video chat or meet in person. Google reverse image search can help you spot if a photo on a profile is genuine or not. Link here: https://images.google.com/ or https://tineye.com/
- Have you ever spoken to them? As these individuals are posing as someone else, they will rarely engage in a phone or web-based voice call.
- Have they ever asked you for money? The amounts may start small but will usually increase once they have your trust. A fraudster may say they are going to visit and ask you to pay for their air fare but then their flight gets cancelled or their passport is stolen.
- Is there anything about your interactions with the individual which just doesn’t feel right? Trust your instincts and be vigilant for any signs which make you feel worried or uneasy.
- Never share any of your personal details with them.
- Think twice before using your webcam. Be careful when using your webcam with a new online love interest, even if it’s someone whom you think you know. The footage could be used against you. This applies to cameras on all devices, from computers and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
Scamalytics is a website where you can upload any details in relation to profiles you feel may be fraudulent and where you can check IP addresses too. This will help in the fight against romance fraud https://scamalytics.com/ . Major dating websites look for fraudulent and duplicate profiles i.e. profiles with different names using the same photos or where multiple profiles have been created on the same computer.
You can also report suspicious profiles on dating websites to the site itself, look for a ‘Contact us’ section on the site.
Cease all contact with the individual immediately and report them to North Yorkshire Police. We know that romance fraud is underreported for a number of reasons but one can be that victims feel embarrassed they have been taken in by these fraudsters. There is absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed and the police are here to support you.
Not only can we give you advice and guidance to ensure you don’t become a victim again, all of these reports help us to build a profile of how romance fraud is undertaken so we can try to stop it happening to others in future.