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Our top tips on how to avoid being scammed on Valentine's day

Monday, 11th February 2019

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, Action Fraud is reminding everyone how to stay safe from fraudsters especially now that the internet an established way to meet and connect with new people.  Those meeting on dating and other sites need to be on their guard against potential dating scams as scammers use the trust gained on social media to persuade victims to part with large sums, with some frauds going on for years.

The amount of money scammed in 2018

Action Fraud has revealed that nearly £351million was lost to romance fraud in 2018 alone – this worked out at an average of £11,145 per victim. This is an increase of 27% on the previous year. 

Are you on scammers target lists?

Scammers target singles columns and dating websites to search for ‘suckers’, their potential victims. They create fictitious online profiles or send out unsolicited emails or letters, often with fake photographs and often pretend to reside in England whilst in reality living overseas.

Apart from the victims losing vast amounts of money Action Fraud highlights the huge emotional impact this type of fraud can have once someone has been scammed. The report suggested 42% of victims said it had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.

Females lose twice as much as males

The report detailed the average age of a romance fraud victim is 50 and that 63% of dating fraud victims are female who lost twice as much on average than males.

Catphishing - how a scammer works

Catphishing is the term used to describe how a scammer operates when trying to make a connection with someone using dating websites, social media, gaming sites and support groups.  

Through the information already posted on these sites by innocent users the scammer will catphish to identify their target’s likes and dislikes, their hobbies, whether  they are animal lovers and do they mind smokers? Once informed the scammer knows what to say to lure and reel the person in.

Our top tips on helping to protect yourself - see the warning signs

Tip 1 - Is that photo just too good to be true?

Are you gazing into a fake photo that’s just been copied from a magazine or the web? What harm is there to run the image through a website to see if this photo has been used before? If you give the image to https://www.tineye.com/  TinEye, they will do a reverse image search and tell you where the image has previously appeared on the web. Useful?  Would have been be if it had been used first!

Tip 2 - Think twice about posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you

Are you posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you?

Tip 3 - Spelling and grammar

We’ve all had the dodgy emails with poor grammar and quickly sussed that it’s another scam, so why not apply the same principle to the online messages you receive? Note what occupation is shown, it’s usually something to impress but to have that job you would expect that person at least to be able to spell and use the correct grammar.

Tip 4 - Falling in love too quickly?

Look at what’s occurring here - what if you are say 50 or so and the love of your life suddenly appears on the website aged 25 and looks drop dead gorgeous! When are you going to wake up? Remember a Catphisher will not use a real photo!

Tip 5 - Lives abroad?

That’s handy-means he/she can’t just pop over to see you, and it typically involves saying they would like to meet you but are stranded and don't have the fare or can meet visa costs. Others pretend to be soldiers stationed abroad or workers based overseas. Know where we are going with this?

Tip 6 - Asking for your money?

So yes, at some time into the ‘relationship’, money comes up. This could be a request to send over cash to help him/her, or someone has died and they need to pay to tidy up their affairs and funeral costs or they just got fired from their job and need money to travel for job interviews. They may also say that they or a family member requires urgent treatment for an illness.

Tip 7 - Been asked to open a joint bank account?

A favourite ploy, but also a huge red flag, is asking you to open a joint bank account. You pay the money in and he/she takes it out! Remember if you receive any requests for money, be suspicious, even if you have known the person for a number of weeks. Be sceptical and ask yourself a simple question, like, 'why am I the only person who can help them, when I have only just met them?'

Tip 8 - If you still feel the need to meet

If you are adamant you want to meet somebody unknown to you, always meet in a public place and if you are unsure take a friend with you for support.

About Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Reporting a fraud – What you need to know

If you believe you’ve been a victim of a romance scam or any form of fraud you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool. The service enables you to both report a fraud and find help and support.

When you report to Action Fraud you will receive a police crime reference number. Reports taken are passed to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. Action Fraud does not investigate the cases and cannot advise you on the progress of a case.

Related reading

Below are the most shared articles from Action Fraud

Fraudsters targeting online gamers

Victims report losing over £200,000, as fraudsters claim to be from TV Licensing

Alert: Cyber criminals send victims their own passwords in new sextortion scam





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