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The Big Business of Online Dating Scams!
KIS Finance
1 in 10 adults who use the internet have tried online dating services.

Last year, singles looking for love found themselves being conned instead...

Costing them over £41 million!

The rapid growth of internet dating

At the turn of the century, internet dating was something most people would be embarrassed to admit to - in the year 2000 there were around just 100,000 dating profiles. Now things have changed and in 2016 the figure was somewhere around 7.8 million!

As with most industries growing rapidly, the fraudsters will eventually find a way in to exploit it. Unfortunately, it seems that people who are looking for love (they seem to favour older women) want to see the good in the potential dates they are speaking with and make vulnerable targets for fraud.

Online dating is not all bad news

Around 1 in 5 relationships are genuinely formed online and it is estimated that this will more than double over the next 10-20 years. But before you sign up (or if you know someone perhaps older who may sign up) it's worth reading up on the possible dangers and warning any vulnerable people you know who use dating websites.

How do these single scammers extract money?

The scammers are unlikely to be the person they pose as. The chances are, your love interest is not even one person - you could be exchanging messages with a circle of fraudsters acting together. It might not even be one fake online profile – they may message you from a few different 'people' some undesirable or even rude, just so that the main fake profile is an even more attractive option for you.

Anyone can be a dating scam target

You don't have to come across as weak or stupid - they are professionals at scamming and many are very good at it! Some may even purposefully target successful people thinking that they will have more income to get their hands on.

Online scammers have patience

The way in which they scam money varies. They may spend time luring you in, gaining your trust, declare their love for you then ask for money for whatever reason. This isn't a quick process – you will probably spend a lot of time exchanging messages (one victim reported that they communicated for 10 hours the first night of contact!) These people have patience, as they are probably chatting up other victims too, and they can take up to 3 to 4 months grooming you before they ask for money. The most time these fraudsters spend talking to you, the more you rely on their company, get attached to them and start to isolate yourself from the rest of the people in your life. Once they have got your sympathy and love – then the requests for money start – either for themselves, to fund travel costs to come and see you or for their child.

Fraudsters like to talk

Some fraudsters even go to the lengths of using voice distortion technology – so just because you can talk to your love interest on the phone, and maybe even any of their children, don't assume they can't be fraudsters if they start asking you for money.

The gateway to online blackmail

Another one of their methods is blackmail. They will find things out about you such as where you work or live, swap some naughty pictures/videos with you and then threaten to distribute yours to family/friends/work colleagues for a ransom. The ones they send to you will just be pictures or videos of other victims!

How can you tell if someone is a scammer?

There are no clear cut rules to tell – but here are some warning signs! If you become suspicious, try doing a google search on their name along with 'dating scam' or doing a google search on their image. If you find they have used someone else's picture – or just a picture readily available online – report them to the website immediately!

Stuck abroad - Scammers are obviously unable to make plans to meet you anytime soon – so may concoct a story such as being in the forces or working abroad temporarily. Often they will claim to be younger than you are, possibly a widow/widower and may be a lone parent (especially if they think you want kids or a family life – more so if you are older and regret not having kids yourself). If this describes you – beware of requests for money for their children! Especially if they claim they are in another country unable to benefit from medical help on the NHS – it is hard to say no to money needed for a child's health or Christmas presents.

Can't meet (or chat on the phone) - Anyone genuine on a dating site will want to meet if you get on well for a while. If you cannot meet them for some reason then there likely to be something wrong. Be especially wary if you cannot talk to them on the phone after exchanging messages for some time – they may not have the required technology to distort their voice.

Inconsistencies - If what they tell you about themselves is inconsistent, this should raise suspicion. Remember you may be talking to a team of scammers – so they may slip up from time to time. Look out for this.

Repetition - If the person you are speaking with repeats themselves, it could just be they don't want to place all eggs in one basket and maybe they are still chatting to other potential dates and not trying to scam you – or it could be that they are scamming a few of you at once and their memory isn't good enough!

Wanting to chat via text/Whatsapp - If they seem to want to chat some way other than through the dating website straightaway. It could be innocent and that they just prefer to chat with you another way or maybe they want to get as much contact information for you to use against you.

Sending emails to you with attachments - They could be trying to give your computer a virus. Don't open attachments from people you don't know, ever.

They ask you a lot of questions - They want specific information, such as your full name, and are not quick to give much away about themselves.

Their picture is too perfect - Many scam victims describe the person they thought they were dating online as being 'like a movie star' and looking back admit he or she seemed too perfect.

How can you protect yourself?

Be careful what you put on Facebook - Especially if you allow people you don't know in real life to add you as a friend. This is especially important if you use the website Tinder as it pulls your information through for the other Swiper members to see, such as your job. Depending on who you work for, it may only take a quick google search to find your work address for them to locate you.

Don't exchange intimate images - Stay classy and leave it to the imagination!

Use the dating website/chatroom to talk - Be wary if they want to text or Whatsapp you straightaway - they could be collecting as much contact details to use to harass you with and blackmail you.

Never post full name, date of birth or address - They could be used to steal your identity.

Never give your bank details out - Never share any financial details or respond to any requests for money.

What should I do if I detect a scammer?

If you detect a fake profile or suspect a person might be a fraudster, report their profile to the dating website or chatroom immediately. Stop all contact, and report the incident to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.


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