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Romance Fraud & Scams

Getting To Know

How do romance scams work?

The rise in online dating platforms has brought with it an increase in the number of romance fraud cases. Romance scams and fraud involves scammers meeting their victims on a dating website and then allowing them to believe that they are in a relationship. The criminal will gain their trust over a prolonged period of time with the intent of getting the victim to send them money or personal information.

It isn’t uncommon for the romance scammer, once they have gained whatever it is they were looking for, to disappear. These criminals are experts in adopting another persona, which makes it easy for the victim to believe them. Victims of romance scams and fraud can lose huge amounts of money and, as the transactions used typically involve bank transfers, this means that it can be traced. 

We’re also seeing an increase in the number of romance scam cases where the scammer has asked victims to make crypto investments on their behalf, causing the victim to lose their money trading in cryptocurrencies.


How to spot a romance scam

How do romance scams work?+

Romance scams and fraud – also known as dating scams – involve victims being duped into sending money or sensitive personal data to scammers. The scammer will use manipulative tactics in order to gain the trust of their victim and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship with one another. Romance scams are perhaps one of the most emotionally taxing forms of scams, as they are built over a number of years and the victim ends up losing a lot more than just the money or personal information parted with before the scammer disappears. 

People of any age, gender, or sexual orientation may fall prey to romance scammers on dating apps like Tinder, Match or on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, but the victims are disproportionately seniors who are lonely or isolated.

The fraudster will make contact with the victim using the dating app, before quickly moving the conversation off the platform. It’s not always easy to identify a romance scam artist. They may seem genuinely curious in the other person by asking them several questions and this can happen over a significant period of time. They will always make an excuse to avoid phone calls or video calls so that their fake persona isn’t unveiled.

Romance scammers are professionals who can fool their victims by acting sympathetic and trustworthy. These scammers populate most online dating and social media platforms. 

What are the most common types of romance scams?+

The overall goal for romance scammers is to get their victims to send large sums of money, but the ways in which they do this can vary. Typically speaking, each method will involve emotional manipulation. Often, the scammer will present the victim with stories to pressure them into making and sending payments. For example, hospital bills due to a sudden injury of themselves or a family member, stranded in a country, waiting for an investment to pay out.

They frequently claim to live outside of the United Kingdom. This makes it simpler to avoid meeting in person and makes their requests for money more plausible. Usually, they are working abroad in one country or are often between countries.

The scammer will then claim to be enduring a problem, such as an issue with a visa, health issues or flight reservations and ask for money to assist. Seemingly plausible stories and excuses that romance scammers use include the following:

  • Claims that they work in the armed forces for another country 
  • Say they work offshore or on an oil rig in an attempt to explain conversations at unusual times of the day or night
  • Are a businessperson trading internationally (often they can use this excuse if they are looking to get you to make crypto trades on their behalf)
  • Live abroad 

The types of stories scammers use are also designed to evoke a sense of urgency in order to get the victim to send money sooner, rather than later or to gain long-term financial support from them. 

  • They are stuck overseas due to visa issues or need money for unexpected travel expenses
  • They’ve become unwell or need surgery, requiring money for medical expenses
  • They’re a businessperson and require financial support for the import or export of products for their “business”
How to identify a romance scam+

There are some common methods that romance fraudsters will use in an attempt to dupe their victims into sending money. 

  • Fraudulent online dating profiles – their profile may have very few images, they may work or reside in a foreign country, and their profile information may be limited.
  • By telling users to utilise an alternative messaging system outside the app. This means that they can get around the app’s security features. 
  • Early confessions of love and excessive flattery are forms of manipulation designed to target individuals.
  • Sending money to a complete stranger is a red flag, particularly if you’ve only just met them via a dating app. 
  • If their photos look too perfect, or they refuse video or voice calls, then this can be an indicator that they aren’t who they say they are. 
  • They ask you to keep the relationship a secret or that you shouldn’t tell friends or family. 
I’m unsure if someone I’m talking to is genuine, how do I check if they’re a romance scammer?+

If you think the person you’re speaking to may be disingenuous, then it’s likely that they are, so it’s best to either unmatch with them or unfriend them. However, there are some additional signs to look out for:

  • Unverified users – on the major dating apps, there is always the option to verify your profile, with face ID software comparing a live image of you with those on your profile. If a user hasn’t done this, it’s a sign they may not be genuine.
  • Unrealistic profile – on either a dating app or social media, if the person has a very polished looking account without much engagement or information, it could be that they have something to hide.
  • No suggestion of meeting – if the person you’re talking to doesn’t suggest meeting in person or doesn’t know much about the area that they claim to be living in, something isn’t right. They may talk about doing something in person but never actually suggest a time or a date.
  • Any mention of money – if the person mentions money in any way, including being a bit short on money, this is often how the conversations start and they eventually ask for financial trust once they’ve established trust.
  • Don’t want to video call – if you’re unsure whether someone is a romance scammer, you could ask them for a video call. If they aren’t happy to do that or suggest a phone call instead, then it’s likely they aren’t who they claim to be.
Do dating websites not stop romance scammers?+

Dating website and app companies are increasingly aware of the issue with romance scammers. The platforms provide guidance on how to spot if someone’s profile is fake and encourage (but not forcing) people to verify their account. However, currently, this is the extent of protection available for users. So, it’s important that you’re aware of what to look out for when it comes to using romance scams.

What are common excuses romance scammers use to get you to send money?+

A few common excuses that romance scammers use to encourage you to send money include the following:

  • Travel expenses to see you – this is very common as it usually isn’t a significant amount of money and is emotionally manipulative as it involves wanting to meet in person.
  • Medical expenses – either for themselves or a family member, romance scammers can use this technique to guilt trip.
  • Emergencies – to encourage a sense of urgency to get the money sent and to not give you much time to think about whether or not it’s legitimate, some kind of emergency will be discussed where money is needed quickly.
  • Holidays – a romance scammer may say they want to book a holiday for you together to meet properly and spend time together (this in itself is unsafe and enough to stop the conversation), then ask for a contribution towards the trip.

To summarise, if anyone you have met on social media or a dating app requests that you send them money, whether you’ve never met in person, have had a few video chats or have met in person, you could still be a victim of a romance scam.

Do romance scammers pose as celebrities?+

Some of the most high-profile romance scams involve people sending money to scammers posing as celebrities. This is a technique that can be used in order to generate trust and to lure fans into the scam. Often this would be athletes, actors or TV personalities. If you ever see a celebrity or someone well known on a dating app or on social media, who at any point requests money from you, this will certainly be a romance scam.

Our Action

I think I’ve been a victim of a romance scam, what do I do?

The first thing you should do when you suspect you’re a victim of a romance scam, or any scam, is to call your bank. If someone has asked you to send them money, and you do, it’s likely you’ve been a victim of a romance scam, as someone genuine would not ask you to do that before meeting each other or even if you had met up in person on a few occasions. Explain what happened to the bank and when the transaction was made. If you immediately realise and contact your bank, they may be able to stop the payment going through. Otherwise, they might be able to provide guidance on whether the money could be recovered.

After speaking to the bank, you should go to the platform you were speaking to them on and report them. This will help to prevent the same thing happening to anyone else.

From here, if the bank is unable to assist you in retrieving the money from the romance scam, contact us at Wealth Recovery Solicitors, to speak to our team of UK-based solicitors who may be able to help you recover the funds.

WRS recovered over £30million for victims of fraud

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We understand that being the victim of a romance scam can be tough to handle, but we hope that our support, action and guidance can enable you to recover lost funds and regain a sense of confidence and security in making trades and investments online.


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