By Fiona Price
In February, the banking protocol saved a lady in Nottinghamshire from sending £17,500 abroad to someone she’d never met. The bank picked up on the suspicious transaction and called the police.
With assistance from the fraud protect team, safeguarding measures have been put in place to ensure she doesn’t fall victim to this type of scam again. She had been communicating with this person for around six months and he’d started requesting money from her. He’d assured her he was going to come to England to be with her when he could.
One of the problems the police face with romance fraud victims is that they’re often embarrassed and ashamed, and sometimes in denial. They say things such as “how could I have been so stupid?”
This sometimes stops victims coming forward and reporting what has happened to them. You should never be embarrassed or ashamed if you’re a victim of any type of fraud.
We actively encourage people to report scams to Action Fraud because if the police don’t know about it, we can’t help others to stop falling victim. We also look out for any trends in fraud and send out alerts and warn others about scams to look out for.
The Fraud Protect Team find that these romance scams usually follow a similar pattern. Someone will make contact, either through a dating site or from a random friend request on Facebook. The Fraud Protect Team advise that you should have a full review of your Facebook privacy settings to help prevent you being a target.
Fraudsters look for vulnerabilities in profiles to help identify their targets, so if it is publicly available that you’re divorced or widowed for example, this can be a target for fraudsters.
We also find that romance fraudsters usually pose as someone working abroad, either in the military or on an oil rig. This gives them an excuse to not meet up with the victim face to face.
Fraudsters want to quickly come off the dating site messenger and switch to other social media, texting or email claiming it’s easier that way. This is to hide the site’s spam protection service from detecting their grooming tactics and requests for money.
The Fraud Protect Team recommend staying on the dating site messenger service until you’ve at least met in person. If the subject of money is raised, report their profile as spam.
Do your research. Take the images from the dating profile and do a reverse image search on tineye.com. If that image appears anywhere else on the internet, you might just stop yourself from falling for a Fauxmance.
Speak to trusted friends and family about your online dating. If they think something isn’t right, trust them. Fraudsters are very quick to show affection and love, declarations of love can be made within days or hours, so be cautious.
You have to have met someone to grow to love them. Be wary of excuses why the person can’t video call or speak on the telephone. With technology around the world, there shouldn’t be an excuse why they can’t
Beware of the sob story. Someone telling you how much they want to visit, but need money to pay for tickets, visas, medical expenses for ill family members, discharge fees from their current job or for essential goods. Beware of any reference to repayment in gold or diamonds.
They may even ask you for money so they can send this over to you. Don’t let time cloud your judgement. Fraudsters use time to play their fake stories on you, make you believe the relationship is real and gain your trust. All with one goal in mind, to financially exploit you, even if this is years down the line.
Never agree to send money to, or receive money from someone you’ve not met. Don’t become a money mule. A money mule is a person who transfers money acquired illegally through a courier service or electronically on behalf of others. This is money laundering, which is a criminal offence. This is how easy it is for victims to become suspects.
If you believe you might have been a victim of a romance scam or any other kind of fraud. Please report this to Action Fraud. You can do this either online www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or via 0300 123 2040.