Online dating is growing in popularity with even well known celebrities turning to it but don’t fall victim to an online romance scam.
More than 200,000 people across the UK alone, have fallen victim to online romance scams according to research by two universities.
These scams invariably involve fraudsters setting up false profiles on dating or social networking sites. Fake identities and stolen photographs are used and the scammers spend time grooming their victims.
Once they feel confident and believe they understand the vulnerabilities of their victim they ask for financial help. Sums from less than £100 to well over £200,000 have been handed over. If the victim won’t hand over money the fraudsters often try to use them to launder money by getting them to deposit fraudulent cheques it into their bank account.
Ultimately the scammers’ victim is doubly hit – through loss of their money and loss of their relationship.
The worry is that many victims feel so embarrassed by what has happened that they don’t report the crime.
A senior manager for fraud prevention, said: “By being aware of how to stay safe online, members of the public can ensure they don’t join those who have lost nearly every penny they had, been robbed of their self-respect, and in some cases, committed suicide after being exploited, relentlessly, by these criminals.
“It is crucial that nobody sends money to someone they meet online, and haven’t got to know well and in person.”
Sadly there are a whole variety of scams used by fraudsters, from identity theft to this scam around online dating, often targeting the more vulnerable in our society.
Be very careful when doing anything online about the amount of personal information you divulge, whether you’re chatting to well known friends on social networking sites or engaging in a new friendship through such as a dating site.
Above all, anyone who falls victim really must build up the courage to report the crime – the more scammers reported the more likely they will be caught and stopped.