How to protect yourself from rom-con fraudsters

Report suspicious behaviour and trust your instincts. Photograph: PA
Report suspicious behaviour and trust your instincts. Photograph: PA
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What would you do if someone you were dating asked you for money? While some people may not hesitate before handing over cash to help someone they care about and are romantically involved with, it may be a warning sign of a scam.

One in three romance scams end up with victims losing over £5,000, according to research from Barclays. Here’s a look at how these scams often work, the warning signs to look out for, and what you can do to protect yourself.

What is a romance scam?

These scams often start after meeting someone online, perhaps on an internet dating website. Scammers will build trust with their victim, who believes they are in a relationship with them. They may use fake online profiles and build up the relationship quickly, but avoid meeting in person. They are adept at coming up with sob stories before persuading victims to part with their cash. Once they have the money, they may then disappear – leaving their victim heartbroken and dealing with the financial blow.

Who’s most at risk?

Barclays found that 45-64-year-old daters are particularly likely to be vulnerable to this type of scam. Only 45 per cent of people in this age group undertake basic checks to ensure the dating websites they use are reputable. The research found 18-24-year-olds are particularly likely to say they would lend someone they were speaking to on a dating app a large amount of money to help with a ‘medical emergency’, saying they’d be willing to lend £112.40 on average.

What could put daters at risk of a romance scam?

◆ Judging someone’s character by their social media profile: 26 per cent of people believe the best way to judge whether someone is trustworthy is their social media profile, compared with 13 per cent who are most influenced by past marital status.

◆ Judging someone’s character by their job: 21 per cent of people would judge someone based on what kind of job they claim to have, with doctors or teachers seen as most trustworthy.

◆ Throwing caution to the wind when meeting someone for the first time. One in ten people do not carry out any basic checks before meeting a potential partner for the first time.

◆ Judging the reliability of a website by its appearance. Many daters do not check the reputation of the websites they are using before meeting someone in person.

◆ Trusting someone too soon: 51 per cent of people would trust someone after meeting them once, with another one in ten admitting they would lend a potential partner money to help pay for rent after just three dates.

How can you stay safe?

◆ Take your time, especially when talking about yourself. You don’t need to give out your life-story the first time you chat – and you shouldn’t.

◆ Check to see if there are other records of the person you’re interested in online. If possible, use a search engine to check their profile photos.

◆ Ignore anyone who asks you to transfer money to a “safe account”.

◆ Report suspicious behaviour, trust your instincts, and immediately stop communicating with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or apprehensive.