Online Dating Fraud
The first week in January is the busiest time of the year for online dating. Millions of people hit dating websites hoping to find love after spending another Christmas alone. However, lurking among the sea of profiles online are sophisticated gangs who prey on innocent people merely trying to find a life partner. These gangs are criminals and use dating sites to groom their victims. They use age old techniques which play mind games making their victims feel guilty if he/she doubts them or do not do as they ask. They are online dating fraudsters, aka romance fraudsters. They have devastated their victims’ lives, left them penniless and destroyed the futures which they worked hard to provide for.
Online Dating Fraud Figures
Figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) confirm that online dating fraud cost a heart-breaking £27m between 2014 and 2015. These also show that two out of three romance frauds started on dating sites. Over 70% or people who have used dating sites say that people misrepresented themselves on their profiles. It is suspected that the number of crimes could in fact be much higher with victims far too embarrassed and ashamed to report the crimes to the police.
The Fraudsters Modus Operandi
Fraudsters use different aliases and adopt English names such as Richard or Christian. Conversely they are usually Nigerian and operate within a ring of fraudsters. Their photos are stolen images from other dating profiles or Facebook members who have no idea their photographs are even being used. Often they will want to communicate with you by text, email or phone very quickly. Words such as “my love, dear” are used frequently and they say they love you very soon, too soon in fact when they’ve never met you. They say they are in the military but this is now widely known as a Modus Operandi (MO) so they may use a different occupation. They may even say they are widowed which is a hook especially if their victim is also widowed.
Victims become isolated, waiting for their romance fraudster’s message and it’s easy to get taken in. They may even tell you not to tell friends or family about them in the same way a paedophile does when grooming their victim. Beware if they ask you to pose for a sexually explicit photograph as they are likely to use this to blackmail you if you don’t do what they ask and provide them with cash.
And then comes the part where they have a large inheritance or an amount of money which needs releasing. But they need your help to release it so you can have a life together and live happily ever after with them. Victims sucked in by these scammers have handed over thousands of pounds and borrowed from friends and family as well as handing over their own nest egg for their future.
It’s not just women who are targeted
A number of victims are middle aged women however, men get taken in too as well as younger victims in their 40s. A couple of my male members in their early 40s almost fell victim to the charms of attractive women who showed an interest in them. These women then needed money for an ill relative.
One of my female members was also targeted by a male who said he lived in Hampshire but thankfully she smelt a rat before it was too late and told him not to contact her again. The police came knocking on her door a few weeks later after the forensic examination of his phone upon arrest led them to her. Thinking she may be another victim like the women who had handed over £170k of her life savings to him. She had a lucky escape.
Get Safe Online
If you are in contact with someone you suspect may not be who they say they are then report it immediately to the dating website and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Or use their Online Reporting Tool.
Get Safe Online has important advice when using online dating sites. Never send anyone you don’t know any money or sexually explicit images of yourself. Remember we all have instincts and if something doesn’t feel right then it usually isn’t.
Stay safe if you intend to use online dating sites to find love this year. Alternatively you could invest in our matchmaking service which has helped hundreds of members find someone to share their lives with.
Author: Tara McDonnell, founder and owner of South Downs Introductions. Tara is a trained certified matchmaker from the Matchmaker Academy. She is also a proud award winner at the UK Dating Awards 2015.