You may meet a stranger…
but rather than enjoying an enchanted evening, sadly there are always con-men or women out there trying to take advantage of people – often when they least expect it, or when they are at their most vulnerable.
One of the nastiest scams involves the promise of romance, but ultimately leads to men or women being duped into sending money to someone with whom they have been led into thinking that they have formed a genuine relationship.
Recent figures reveal that romance scams are on the rise. Indeed, by the end of 2022 it was reported that the amount of people who fell victim to romance scams had increased by 60%, with an average loss of over £8,000. Research also suggests that men have become the primary victims, now making up over half of all cases.
As with many scams, criminals will go to great lengths to gain the trust and convince victims that they are in a genuine relationship. Requests for money will usually only come over time – perhaps explained by the need for emergency medical care, or alternatively the victim may be told by the person that they live abroad but are unable to afford the costs of coming to the UK to meet up.
You should always be suspicious of any such requests for money, particularly where you have never met in person. Speak to your friends or family and ask their advice. If you are not computer savvy, perhaps ask someone who is to perform a google reverse image search which might reveal the true identity of the person or which might raise questions.
It may not be easy for the friend or relative of the victim to realise that there may be an issue, but potential signs are –
- Secrecy about the relationship and excuses as to why you have never seen the “partner”
- Evasion if you ask any questions about how they met
- Unusual levels of emotion for someone they have only just met
- Mention of money being sent to the person.
How to report it
It is perfectly natural for anyone who has been a victim of a scam to be ashamed or embarrassed, and to be a victim of a romance scam may feel particularly so, but always realise that you will not be alone.
Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.
Further advice can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org