With dating apps like Tinder more popular than ever, what are the warning signs people should look out for when meeting potential new love interests online?
The illusion of wealth
Does your new match appear to live the high life or have high-value assets? Do their social media accounts feature shiny new cars and expensive holidays? Do they claim to have a well-paid career?
The Tinder Swindler claimed to be a billionaire diamond mogul’s son. Does it all look a bit too good to be true?
Let’s talk somewhere else
The Tinder Swindler got his victims to leave Tinder and message him using WhatsApp. When you are chatting on a dating platform, you are bound by their rules, you can report people and get them banned. There are no rules governing communication on other apps. Stay on the platforms.
Playing the long game
Romance fraudsters don’t dive in immediately asking for cash. They build trust over many months and hundreds of hours of phone and video calls, finding out background information about you and building a bond.
They may create a backstory that tugs on your heartstrings like claiming to be widowed, a single parent or the victim of misfortune in their personal or work lives.
One of the Tinder Swindler’s victims met his supposed ex and their child who said what a great guy he was. But were they who they claimed to be or part of the fraud? Fraudsters may have accomplices who will try to add credibility to their stories by posing as close relatives and children, or they might Photoshop and share images of people who they claim are their family but are are not.
I need your help, now!
Something bad has happened and you’re the only person who can help the fraudster.
They may claim to have been threatened, have had their credit cards cancelled for reasons beyond their control, need a short-term loan to complete a business deal, are ill in hospital and need money to pay for a surgical procedure, or abroad without access to money.
All of these scenarios are designed to panic you into handing over cash.
Making and breaking arrangements
Romance fraudsters make and break arrangements at the last minute leaving you waiting at airports or train stations.
They may then blame this on visa issues, travel delays or work emergencies. Some may even use it as an opportunity to ask for more money by claiming to need cash to extract themselves from the situation so they can see you.
What might seem like an innocent request to put a bank account or credit card in your name could actually be a front for money laundering, with you used as a go-between to help hide illegally-acquired funds. Money from one victim can also end up funding the grooming of another. Fraudsters may also share fake documents as “proof” that you’ll get your money back.
When you start to ask difficult questions or accuse the fraudster of cheating you out of money, they can drop the pretence and start being aggressive. Their biggest fear is their scam unravelling so they will use threats and bribery to stop you from talking. They may threaten to send explicit photos to your family or colleagues or tell you you’ll come to physical harm if you go to the police.
Read more about the experiences of people from Essex who fallen victim to romance fraudsters.
Clare lost more than £13,000 to two men she met on dating apps, leaving her feeling “stupid and ashamed”.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of romance fraud, call us on 101. For other forms of fraud, you can also contact Action Fraud – the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre – by clicking on the link or calling 0300 123 2040.