When you’re looking for love, the last thing you want is a malicious scammer trying to steal your heart so they can steal your cash! Yet sadly romance scams are on the rise across the globe, with as many as 2,100 victims in the UK alone last year. This was a 53% rise in 2018 and this growth doesn’t look to be slowing down.
What is more concerning is that the average scam victim loses £10,000, though it is the mental scars that can be even more damaging. But before you strike online dating from your life forever, know that there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Being able to recognise the signs of a romance scam is the important first step to staying safe online. Below, we’ll highlight nine of the biggest warning signs and red flags you need to look out for when starting a relationship over the internet.
1. Their profile picture looks like a supermodel
Now we’re not saying that you won’t meet attractive, model-material partners online, hey some of them might even legitimately be models! But so often scammers will use stolen pictures of gorgeous supermodels to lure in unsuspecting victims. So if you notice their profile picture is a very glossy, over the top, posed picture, this could be the first sign that they’re too good to be true.
2. They have no online presence
Armed with their name, photo, and maybe a few other facts about them you should be able to track them down on social media and other sites. If an internet search throws up nothing and they have no other online profiles, whether professional or personal, this should raise major red flags! After all, in this day and age, most people have some sort of online presence and at least one social media profile.
3. They live really far away
People do make connections halfway around the world and sometimes long-distance relationships do work out, but realistically, if you’re hoping to meet someone and settle down, you want someone who lives within the same county or region as you, and certainly the same country! So if they live hundreds of miles away or on another continent, it’s unlikely they’re a legitimate individual looking to find love online.
4. They ask strange or personal questions
Have they begun asking odd questions perhaps about your job, family or personal details? Let’s face it, no real love interest is going to ask you what your national insurance number is or who you bank with, so if they start acting in this way, it’s a warning sign that they are trying to steal your information or identity. Be careful not to share any sensitive information like this with them.
5. They share very little about themselves
On a similar note, if they are very reluctant to share any information about themselves, this could be because they’re hiding something! When you’re getting to know someone it’s understandable that you’d ask the usual questions like their hobbies and interests, favourite music and movies, where they grew up, or how many siblings they have. If they refuse to share anything about themselves this is a sign of a scammer.
6. They delay meeting with you face-to-face
Have they agreed to meet you face-to-face on several occasions, yet every time the day rolls around they have another crazy excuse for why they can’t attend? If their life appears to be filled with drama, medical emergencies, family problems, and work-related crises to avoid meeting in person, this is usually because they are not who they say they are.
7. They ask you for money
Now, this is a big one and though it might seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many people still fall for this scam. Think about it, if you’ve been chatting to someone online for months and you have feelings for them, then they ask you for money to be able to come to visit you or for medical bills or whatever it may be, you could be tempted to give it to them. Because you trust them and just want to be able to meet with them in person.
Be sure to push these feelings aside and use your better judgement. It’s unlikely that any new relationship is going to start turning to you for money, even in an emergency! Especially someone that you’ve never actually met in person. So never part with your cash or bank details when chatting with a new romance online.
8. They try to take you away from dating sites
Meeting and talking to new interests through dating websites and apps can be a great idea. Not only does it open you up to a bigger pool of potential partners, but these sites usually have screening processes and additional security features in place to ensure the legitimacy of those who register.
For this reason, if your new romance quickly encourages you to get off the site and communicate with one another via email, phone, or social media, this could be because they’re worried about getting caught or having your conversations monitored. If they try to hurry you away from the platform where you met, this should ring alarm bells and could be a sign of a potential scam. Particularly if they’re very pushy even when you resist giving them your phone number or email address.
Because of this, it’s best to keep to the safety of dating sites and apps until you have met in person at least once or twice.
9. They are quick to profess their love
Scammers want to reel you in as quickly as possible and they prey on those who are looking for love and comfort from a partner. If they quickly begin giving you pet names like ‘babe’ or ‘baby’ when they don’t really know you, and certainly if they begin professing their love for you after just a few weeks of the online chat (and no face-to-face meetings) then approach with caution.
This is usually part of their routine to get you hooked and make you care for them. That way you’ll be more likely to part with your personal information, bank details, or cash.