Romance Fraud

Are you considering meeting your true love on internet dating? Protect yourself! Most people are genuine however some people aren’t. Never give personal details to someone you have met online including your bank account details. We’ve spoken to a lady who was a victim of dating fraud, here she tells us her story…

“I was divorced and thought I was ready to meet someone new so I decided I’d try an online dating website. Someone caught my eye and straight away, they showed an interest in me which gave me confidence. The guy was lovely, very kind and seemed genuinely interested in me. I was in quite a vulnerable place so the fact he seemed to really care attracted me, he was always so caring when we spoke. 

“He said he was a doctor working for a well-known charity abroad in Syria and he was responsible for immunising children – he even sent me photos of himself and the camp he was working at! We had been talking for quite a few months, we even talked about how we would carry on our relationship when he finished with his programme and when he came home. He said he would be taking early retirement and I never had a reason at that point to doubt him. 

“He gradually started asking for money, firstly to pay for the flight home as he said the charity had a policy to not pay for the flights of their workers. I wanted to see him and like I said, I didn’t have any reason to doubt he was lying so I sent money to him.

“From then on, he gradually asked for more and more money, mostly saying it was difficult for him to access his money because of where he worked and the banking systems in Syria. The money I sent over went to an account in Nigeria which did make me think, but he explained it all by saying the charity had bank accounts set up in different countries. 

“Things started to take a turn for the worse when he contacted me to say he had been arrested at the airport for gold smuggling– he said he didn’t have anyone else who could help him and I agreed to help. I took out a loan to help fund his bail and then a second loan when he said he needed to pay for a hotel to stay at until he got out of the country. 

“The way he was talking to me saying, “I love you, I’m so sorry to put you through this” was so genuine, I believed him. 

“When I eventually found out he wasn’t genuine and that I was the victim of a scam I felt so ashamed, sick and embarrassed. I couldn’t tell my friends and most of my family have no idea. I’d lost £20,000 in total. 

“I’ve since contacted the charity and they said unfortunately scammers will say they work for charities to make their stories more believable and most of what he said about their organisation wasn’t true – I just wish I’d checked with them at the time. 

“I’m trying to move on with my life but I’m still very wary now whenever I meet someone new. I feel worse as I know the scammers found out information about me so that they could play on my vulnerabilities, they are so clever. I can see that there is still a profile under his name but with a different age and photo online. I’ve reported this to the dating website, I don’t want anyone else to be a victim of this type of fraud.

“My advice to people out there in the same situation is to be wary of anyone who seems to be asking lots of questions about you, they might seem to be caring or concerned but you never know who is at the other end. You think it’s the person they’ve painted the picture of but the reality could be very different”.

How to protect yourself against this type of scam

  • Try not to give away too many personal details if you’re dating online. Something as simple as telling someone your name, date of birth and address may result in your identity being stolen
  • Don’t send or receive money or give anyone your bank details, no matter how much you trust them
  • Only ever use a reputable dating website and only chat on their site. Be wary of anyone asking you to chat via social media or text

Spot the signs that something isn’t what it should be...

  • Someone’s asking you a lot about you but revealing very little about themselves
  • Suddenly a reason appears for them to ask for your help. They will play on the fact that you have feelings for them
  • Take a close look at the photos they’ve sent you. They may be a little too perfect. You can do a reverse image search on google to find out if the pictures have been taken from somewhere else. https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en
  • If you’ve arranged to meet they may start asking for money for the journey. They may also play on your sympathies by saying a relative is sick and they need money for an operation 

What to do if you’re the victim of this type of fraud 

  • Don’t feel embarrassed, these fraudsters can be very convincing!
  • Report it to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. You can do this on-line by going to www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040
  • If you’ve paid by credit or debit card for anything, or made a bank transfer contact your card provider/bank and explain that you have been a victim. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to cancel payments and protect your identity from being possibly stolen.
  • We’re always here to help. You can call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also contact Connect Gwent, our victims hub on 0300 123 21 33 or by visiting http://www.connectgwent.org.uk/