If you’re looking for love, you may have decided to try online dating. But did you know that dating site scams are an increasingly common problem? Here’s what you should know about online romance scams so you can stay safer online.
Dating site scams
Online dating scams start with a fraudster creating a fake profile on a dating site. The scammer lures you into trusting them so they can steal your money or personal information.
It’s similar to ‘catfishing’, which is when someone pretends to be someone else online. However, while catfishing isn’t technically illegal in the UK, scamming is.
Not only is ‘romance fraud’ extremely distressing, but it can damage your credit score and finances. For example, if the scammer steals your information, they can use it to commit crimes such as applying for a loan or credit card in your name. These fraudulent applications could make it harder for you to apply for credit in the future.
How to spot an online dating scam
Romance scams can be tricky to spot, but there are a few signs you should look out for.
Firstly, it’s a warning sign if the person wants to know personal details like your surname and date of birth. Be especially wary if they want to know odd details like your mother’s maiden name, or the name of your first teacher. If a scammer intends to steal your identity, they might use this information to answer security questions about you.
Secondly, scammers often encourage victims to talk offline because it’s harder to report them to the dating site for fraud. So if they’re keen to talk by phone or text rather than online, it could be an early warning sign.
And finally, be a little sceptical if someone tells you all about their personal woes. You don’t know this person yet, so if they’re sharing money worries with you, it could be because they want to lure you into sending them cash.
The bottom line? Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a reason.
Protect yourself from online dating scams
It’s not always easy to spot a romance scam, but here are some ways you can stay safer on dating apps.
- Never send someone money unless you know and trust them.
- Do a reverse image search on someone’s profile picture. If the picture belongs to someone else, stop talking to them immediately.
- Don’t give out personal details like your mobile number until you’re ready.
- Always keep bank account details, PINs and passwords safe. Don’t share them with anyone.
- Never tell anyone about your finances. For example, if scammers know you have money in a savings account, they may be more likely to target you.
- Stick to trusted, reputable dating sites at all times.
If you’ve been caught out by a scam, contact your bank immediately. The bank can block your card and stop money from leaving your account. And don’t forget to contact Action Fraud, too – the organisation can sometimes catch the scammer before they find another victim.
Finally, whatever happens, remember that it’s not your fault. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if you fall for a dating site scam. Fraudsters can target anyone, and they’re usually very sophisticated.