What is it?

You’re convinced to make a payment to a person you’ve met either through social media or on a dating website. Fake profiles are used by criminals in an attempt to build a relationship with you – this is often known as catfishing. Criminals use information found on social media to create fake identities to target you with a scam, looking for profiles that say you’re ‘widowed’ or ‘divorced’.

How to spot a romance scam?

  1. You’ve met someone online and they declare strong feelings for you after a few conversations
  2. They suggest moving the conversation away from the dating website or social media to a more private channel such as email, phone or instant messaging
  3. Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page isn’t consistent with what they tell you
  4. There are spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and they make claims such as their camera isn’t working
  5. They refuse to Skype, or video call/meet you in person
  6. Photos generally tend to be stolen from other people

Example of a romance scam

Emma signed up to an online dating website where she met an aid worker on duty in Iraq called ‘John’. Soon after befriending Emma, John told her that he’d lost his wife and brother to cancer, a story which was very similar to her own. They spoke nearly every day and planned to meet in the UK.

One day Emma received an email from John telling her that he’d been involved in an accident and that he needed an urgent operation. It was life or death. He told her he didn’t have the money to pay and asked if she could send him £5,000. Emma agreed and sent the money through a bank transfer.

Soon after Emma had transferred the money, John told her he needed more to cover hospital bills and convinced Emma to send a further £5,000, assuring her that he’d pay her back when he arrived in the UK.

John never contacted her again. His profile disappeared and he stopped replying to any of Emma’s messages or phone calls.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card.

Always remember

Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person

Research the person you’re talking to as profile photos may not be genuine

Be alert to spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies in stories

Stay on the dating site or on the messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and meetings in person take place in public

Always consider the possibility of a scam

Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust