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Here, victims of romance fraud tell us about their experiences in their own words, and we speak to a forensic linguist to lift the lid on the tactics used by these masters of manipulation. Catfishing — creating a fake profile to attract someone online — is not a crime, although many think it should be.
However, if the catfish goes on to request money, it is an offence. This is fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act , and should be reported to Action Fraud or Police Scotland. Dating sites and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are the preferred hunting ground for romance fraudsters.
A common tactic is to pretend to have a job that requires long periods of travel, for example a nurse working overseas, someone in the armed forces, or an offshore oil-rig worker. After months of grooming, they ask for help. UK Finance cites a few examples — an issue with a visa, health problems or flight tickets — and says that victims are typically convinced to make multiple payments to the criminal, as indicated by an average of around five payments per case. One romance fraud victim told us she was emotionally groomed for many months after meeting a man on Facebook who claimed to work abroad as an engineer:.
He wanted to start a life with me, and sent me pictures of two minors he claimed were his kids. He said he had a one-year contract in Malaysia as a petrol engineer. After chatting with me for a couple of weeks, out of the blue he told me one of his machines broke and he needs it to finish his work. I told him there is no way I can help financially but I could support him morally.
This is when he stopped contacting me. They often steal photos from stock image libraries and online social media profiles. One Which? Always a similar story. Either working on oil rigs all over the world or on a peace-keeping mission somewhere, preparing for retirement and wanting to find love.
They are very clever, though. How they did it I have no idea, because I discovered those pictures were of a plastic surgeon in the USA. It worries me that some women will fall for it. You can either drag the photo or download it to your computer and then it. Fraudsters are always using new tactics to avoid detection — they might even use images created by an AI machine.
For example, websites such as thispersondoesnotexist. Victims of dating fraud often blame themselves. But Dr Elisabeth Carter, forensic linguist and senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Roehampton, explains that victims are not to blame, as this is a psychological crime as well as a financial one. Romance fraudsters are patient — they might groom victims for months before they attempt to steal their money, having built a relationship and established trust. They will typically suggest switching to or personal messaging sites such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger early on — going from a more regulated environment dating sites have moderators to a space alongside friends and family.
They can message the victim night and day. Isolation of the victim is another strategy, although this can be incremental, making it hard for family and friends to spot. I was sure that he was genuine, but I learned the hard way and got scammed out of a lot of money. Alice not her real name got in touch with Which? Most of the money was sent to him via Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange platform. Her bank says it will not refund the stolen money because it advised her not to make these payments. I still cannot believe it happened to me.
I met this man via Words with Friends. We started a game and got chatting, then quickly moved over to Google Hangouts to chat properly. He said he was a project manager for an oil and gas company and had won a contract he had been chasing since December — I supposedly brought him luck. Then an important piece of machinery broke, and work had to stop until it was fixed.
When he got that first lot of money it kept escalating, with money being requested for supplies for him and his workers, more specialist workers hired, lawyer fees etc. The list is endless. I was under a lot of stress with my work and the lockdown. The pressure was unreal, as I really believed he was in trouble and needed my assistance. He started to talk about committing suicide, as he could not cope with losing everything. I kept in touch with this guy as I thought the police would be able to track him. They passed me from pillar to post.
I told them the scammer was still in contact with me but they seemed uninterested. I am just a statistic to them. This will teach me to keep myself to myself now, and I will never trust again. I never thought I could be, either — he always had an answer to any query and a way of making me feel it was all going to be OK. I was so open and vulnerable. It makes me so sad. He has stolen my life from me. This catfisher posed as a young woman, but David later discovered he was messaging a man in Nigeria.
My emotions were all over the place, and I found it difficult to accept that I had been taken in. This is such a cruel thing to do to an elderly pensioner who wanted love, but instead got fleeced by this evil, corrupt man who has no shame in what he did to me, and no doubt has done to many others. After weeks of s and telephone calls, he made plans to meet her for the first time. I am not one who exudes confidence in that area, and with Covid rearing its ugly head, more traditional ways have not been possible.
If they ask for money, do not give it — however much they have manipulated trust prior. Before getting to that stage, they will likely have suggested moving away from the dating site and exchanging addresses. I guess this is because they can be blocked via the site.
If they say this, it is highly likely the money bit will follow. Run a mile. At the time, I guessed it was my fault for being taken in, not their fault for being in existence. Romance frauds are often referred to as authorised push payment APP or bank transfer scams. But getting your money back is a lottery. Firstly, not all banks and building societies are ed up to this voluntary code the Co-operative Bank, Monzo, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money are not atories.
Even among those who are committed to the Code, fraud reimbursement rates vary widely. If a fraudster has stolen your money and you live in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, report this to Action Fraud using the online fraud reporting tool , or by calling Monday to Friday 8am — 8pm. If you live in Scotland then you should report fraud to the police by calling You should also tell your bank. Being a victim of fraud can take a huge toll on your mental health, so make sure you talk to someone to get the support you need. Mind also has a support line, Mind Infoline , available on lines open 9am — 6pm, Monday — Friday.
You should also report fraudsters to the platform they used to contact you. If you still have an , you can report them directly via the app or website:. Facebook told us it has a team of experts solely focused on identifying fake profiles and building tools to counter this kind of activity:.
Where we identify violations of our rules, we take robust enforcement action. Match Group has partnered with the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud in the UK, to advise Match Group members on how to spot romance fraud and protect themselves online:. These steps are deed to stop scams in their tracks and help protect the next potential victim. A moderation team also checks if any photos have been ly used by scammers:. This allows us to give a rating based on current scammer trends. The score, given in real time, allows our fraud system to automatically remove fraudulent users should their rating be deemed as suspicious.
Should a member pass these initial checks, each time they make a change to their profile or log in to their , they are re-scored and their rating is updated. Zynga also uses technology to proactively identify fraudulent players based on their chat and in-game behaviour, and takes the appropriate action:.
Keep safe from scams — up to our Scam Alert service to get the latest scams news and advice. Consumer Rights. What is romance fraud? Online dating-fraud tactics Dating sites and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are the preferred hunting ground for romance fraudsters.
Hiding behind a mask Fraudsters rarely reveal their true face.Online dating scams uk
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Tell-tale s your online date may be an online fraud