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How to avoid romance scams

Romance scams are among 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 your emotions. Fraudsters set up fake profiles on dating websites, apps and social media. They try to appeal to your 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.

Case study: how one woman was conned out of £100,000

How to spot romance scams

Fraudsters often go to great lengths to gain your trust, sometimes sending gifts such as flowers, wine or chocolates.

They usually ask for lots of personal information, but share very little about themselves.

Here are some tell-tale signs that 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 say they’re away working or travelling
  • they plan a visit to see you, but something comes up at the last minute to prevent them from coming

One of these points on its own may be innocent. But more than one, together with a request for money, can be a sign that it’s a romance scam. 

To find out more about this and other common types of fraud, download our scams leaflet (PDF, 333KB). You can also read updates about the latest scams as we come across them.

How to report a scam

If you think you've been the victim of a romance scam, make sure you tell us. You should also report it to the dating site or app and to Action Fraud.

Check out the government-backed campaign Take Five to find out more about how to guard against financial fraud.