Romance fraud happens when the victim thinks they’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app, but the other person is using a fake profile to form a relationship with them. They’re using the site to gain the victim’s trust and ask them for money or enough personal information to steal their identity.
Romance fraudsters are masters of manipulation and will go to great lengths to create a false reality in which an individual feels that they are making reasonable and rational decisions. The challenge for family and friends of those affected by romance fraud is being able to disrupt the false reality created to enable them to see the situation for what it really is – a fraud.
A new booklet, developed by Thames Valley Police’s Economic Crime Unit alongside Dr Elisabeth Carter, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Forensic Linguist at the University of Roehampton, has been designed to demonstrate the clever tactics used by romance fraudsters with a view to improving the knowledge of our
communities. It dispels the myths of shame and embarrassment often associated with this crime by highlighting the link to coercive control. Detective Inspector Duncan Wynn of Thames Valley Police’s Economic Crime Unit said:
“Romance fraud can have a catastrophic impact, from the emotional devastation to the financial
losses. It’s so important that if you feel you have fallen victim to a romance fraudster that you seek
help by reaching out to Action Fraud or Victim Support.”
Dr Elisabeth Carter, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Forensic Linguist at the University of Roehampton said: “Romance fraudsters are masters of disguise and deception, and this publication shines a light on the tactics they can use, so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”
Dating online is now one of the most popular ways for new couples to meet, with millions of people finding new relationships, romance and love this way. Unfortunately, amongst the genuine profiles are fake profiles set up by fraudsters. They are after your money, not your love. They are masters of manipulation, playing on your good nature and emotions to ultimately steal your money.
Criminals will build a relationship with online members, quickly asking to move communication off the dating website. This is so they can continue their contact with you, even if their profile is later identified by the site as fraudulent and subsequently deleted.
Fraudsters are often very flattering, appearing really interested in you within a short space of time. However, they will use a range of excuses as to why they can’t meet in person, such as they are stuck overseas, have a family emergency or have an issue with their business. They then start asking for money to help with their problems, assuring you they will pay it back as soon as they can. The fraudster may claim to be desperate to meet you as soon as this obstacle is overcome. This is all a scam and their true intention is to take as much money from you as they can.
How to protect yourself
- Stay on site.
- Keep all communication on the dating website you are using. Don’t be convinced by profile pictures, they may have been taken from somewhere else on the internet. You can check photos using a reverse image search on the internet through websites like https://www.tineye.com or https://reverse.photos .
- Do your own research on the person – are they members of any other social networking sites? Can you confirm what they are telling you about themselves, such as where they work or where they live?
- Never send money to someone you have not met in person and be extremely wary of giving money to someone you have recently started a relationship with.
- Be wary of anyone asking you to receive money on their behalf and transfer it on. They may be using you to launder money.
- Talk to family and friends for advice, even if the other party is asking you to keep the relationship secret.
- Watch our video on Romance Fraud at www.met.police.uk/littlemedia
REMEMBER – Stay on site! Never send money to someone you have not met in person, or receive/ transfer money on their behalf.
CAUTION – Be wary of continuing the relationship away from the dating website you initially made contact on.
THINK – Why are they so quick to declare their love for me? How do I know they are telling me the truth?