You don’t have to be using a dating site to fall victim to a romance scam, scammers are now looking for victims on popular charity sites.
Romance scams are one of the highest reported types of fraud in West Sussex. If someone says Romance Scam to you, you will probably think dating sites, but scammers have been found targeting vulnerable people on charity Facebook pages for people discussing mental health, bereavement and ageing. Fake profiles have been found on pages belonging to Age UK, Mind and The Good Grief Trust among others.
You may have recently lost a loved one or be caring for a partner with dementia for example and feeling loneliness, depression, isolation, anxiety, all emotions that people want to get out of. So, it is no surprise when a fraudster offers hope, excitement, passion, belief, all emotions that make you feel good, that you are tempted into his net of depictions and lies. Fraudsters are experts in psychology and will use your emotions against you. None of us are good at thinking objectively when we are emotional. When we are emotional, we make mistakes.
A scammer will go to great lengths and use various techniques to build a relationship.
- They will want to move the conversation onto a messaging platform to avoid being monitored.
- A scammer will often try and make you feel special using flattery for example.
- They will not want to video chat or meet face-to-face.
- They will often try to build similarities in interests.
- They will probably tell you to keep the relationship secret from friends and family.
The romance scammers will eventually ask you to send them money for what sounds like a legitimate cause, encourage you to invest in fake cryptocurrency platforms or do them a favour such as transfer money on their behalf or send/receive parcels.
To avoid becoming a victim of romance scammers:
- Keep your conversations on the charity or dating site. Do not message them directly.
- Speak to friends and relatives.
- There are tools you can use to try and trace the source of a profile picture.
- Never send money, invest money yourself on their advice or on their behalf.
- Do not do personal ‘favours’.
Romance scams can have a huge financial and emotional toll on victims. Many people do not report romance scams as they feel ashamed or embarrassed that they have fallen victim to a scam, but you are not alone. By reporting the crime, it allows the authorities to track where and how the criminals are operating. It also disrupts criminals, which may stop others from falling victim.
If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Remember the A,B,C – Assume nothing , Believe nobody and Check everything
Article by Liam Dasey. Liam is one of our volunteer Digital Champions, but he is also a volunteer Digital Ambassador for West Sussex County Council and Get Safe Online, helping raise awareness about online safety in the community.