Romance scams

Did you know that fraudsters join dating apps and sites to create fake profiles?

They chat to connect with people, building a relationship before asking them for money.

Learn the methods behind this common type of abuse.

How fraudsters influence people

There are three stages to a romance scam: set up, influence and isolation. Fraudsters do all of this by chatting to people in a certain way. 

When fraudsters are in control, it’s very hard for someone caught up in the scam to realise what’s happening. 

Friends and family may see the warning signs, but only if they know about a relationship. 

Fraudsters create dating profiles

People believe fraudsters are genuine because they come across as nice and share personal details that seem real. This is all part of the set-up. If they can win a person’s trust, then they can influence them to do things like send money.

A genuine person on a dating site or app should never ask for money.

Will they meet in person?

For a romance scam to work, a fraudster needs to keep their true identity a secret. So, they can never meet in person, or chat on video, and it’s rare for them to talk on the phone. Fraudsters often say they’re happy to meet up, but it will never happen for one reason or another.

To pretend to be someone else, fraudsters can use photos of other people. Do you know how to check a photo?

Do they want to chat elsewhere?

It’s easy to report a fraudster on a dating site or app. That’s why they suggest leaving to chat on another app or messaging service. This also helps them to chat more freely to get information to help them influence a person. Fraudsters use the same messages to chat with different people. A quick online search may find if a message has been used before.

Only a fraudster will ask for sensitive details, like passport information or for access to a bank account.

Tell others about a relationship

If a fraudster can stop someone from telling others about a relationship, it helps them to keep control. They isolate people by asking them to keep it a secret or to share things that are intimate.

Never keep an online relationship a secret. Tell family or a real-life friend who’s reliable.

Do they ask for money?

The reason why fraudsters spend time chatting to people and forming a relationship is to gain power over them. Then it’s easier to ask for money to help with a fake problem like unpaid bills, ill health or how much it costs to meet.

A genuine online friend will never ask for money, a loan, or to transfer money to someone else for them.

Is it a photo of someone else?

Check if a photo has been stolen by a fraudster.

There are websites where you can do a free reverse image search.

They search the internet to see if an image appears elsewhere under a different name.

Mary’s story

This is a real case of a romance scam. Try to identify which tricks the fraudster used.

I joined a Facebook group of a film I loved and a member called Paul sent a private message.

We stayed in the group until Paul suggested WhatsApp, where our chat became more about our lives.

We messaged daily and Paul shared photos of himself, some with his daughter. We even spoke on the phone, but Paul never wanted to video call.

Sadly, Paul’s bank account was blocked and he couldn’t get any money.

He sent photos of bank statements showing £1 million was due to clear and more in savings. I agreed to help and sent gift cards and some money.

Suddenly, Paul’s daughter fell ill and needed an urgent kidney transplant. I saw photos of her in hospital and the doctor caring for her sent a message.

Paul was overseas with the army. He asked me to pay the hospital bill, promising to pay me back when his bank was okay to use again. I said yes and had to send money to a lady named Monique, who dealt with the payments for the hospital.

I couldn’t afford to send any more, but Paul suggested I get a loan. This made me nervous, so I told my daughter who made me realise I’d been the victim of a romance scam.

I ended the relationship but lost over £14,500. If I hadn’t told my family, I could have lost a lot more than just my money.

It took me a while to get over Paul, but I’m happy now and with someone I’ve met in person who loves me.

And one last thing: If a relationship feels pressured or secretive, never be afraid to talk to someone about it as it could be a fraudster.

Support for victims of a romance scam

Being a victim of a romance scam won’t just hurt financially. Realising that a relationship is not real can trigger many challenging emotions. Feelings of hurt, embarrassment and shame are common. There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, as romance scams are more common than you would think. 

There are organisations that can offer support. 

Please report a romance scam to Action Fraud in England and Wales, and to the police in Scotland on 101

Always phone 999 in an emergency.

Other scams fraudsters use to trick you

Do you know how to avoid social media scams, an investment scam or what to look out for if a fraudster pretends to be your bank?

Social media scams

Do you know the methods fraudsters use on social media?

Stay safe on social media

Scam calls

Find out how fraudsters can use your details to win your trust.

Avoid scam calls

Investment scams

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine companies and advisers.

How to invest safely

Learn about the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

Go to latest scams

Have you been targeted by fraudsters?

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Stay scam safe

Find out how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Find out how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud