Romance scams are one of the most common types of fraud.
They usually begin with a fast-moving online relationship, but end in financial crime.
What is a romance scam?
These scams work by exploiting the emotions of victims. Fraudsters set up fake profiles on dating websites, apps and social media. They try to appeal to their victims' compassionate side and then ask for money.
Some of the typical reasons they’ll use are:
- they want to come to the UK (sometimes with the promise of marriage), but need money to cover the cost of travel
- they have a relative who needs an urgent operation, but can't afford to pay for it
- they have a large inheritance, but can't access the money
To avoid falling victim to a romance scam, never send money to someone you’ve only met online.
How to spot romance scams
Fraudsters often go to great lengths to gain the trust of their victims, sometimes sending gifts such as flowers, wine or chocolates.
They usually ask for lots of personal information, but share very little about themselves.
If several of the points below apply to an online relationship you're in, it could be a sign you’re actually dealing with a fraudster:
- they seem to have fallen in love with you rather quickly
- they soon want to leave the dating site, or app, to use instant messaging, email or text instead
- they claim to be from the UK, but are working or travelling overseas
- they plan a visit to see you, but something comes up at the last minute to prevent them from coming
One of these points in isolation may be innocent. But a combination of them, together with a request for money, can indicate a romance scam.