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Dating scams: what are they and how can you avoid falling victim to them?


Dating apps and social networking sites are fast becoming the most popular ways to try and find love, however they don’t come without their risks. Many have been known to fall victim to ‘romance scams’ (also known as ‘catfishing’), whereby scammers will create fake profiles and build up relationships with targets, before eventually making up a story to ask for money or attempting to steal the target’s identity. A total of £12.6 million was lost to romance scams in 2018, of that only £640,000 could be returned because the payments were made over a period of time, giving the criminal time to move the money*.

How to tell if someone is a romance scammer

Romance scammers will usually ask that money is sent to them by bank transfer or loaded to cards such as iTunes or Amazon gift cards, so that they can remain anonymous and receive the funds quickly. Transactions carried out this way are also very difficult to reverse.

It’s likely that they will want to find out as much information about a target as possible so will ask a lot of personal questions early on into the interaction. They will then avoid answering personal questions about themselves and may also say things that do not add up or seem suspicious.

Romance scammer tactics often include trying to form a bond very quickly and scammers may create pet names or tell the target that “they’ve never felt like this before”. On the contrary, whilst building the bond quickly they will then avoid meeting up in person by giving excuses or cancelling at the last minute.

Most romance scammers will tell targets that they live or work abroad. Often scammers will say that they work in the military or work for an international organisation. This provides the opportunity for them to state that they need money for flights for example, or customs fees and visas. Often once the money has been sent by the target, the scammer will either cut off contact or start requesting more and more funds.

How to avoid becoming a scam victim

  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know on social media
  • Never give too many details away about your personal life online
  • Never give your bank details or send/receive money to someone you have only met online
  • Try to use trusted dating sites and stay on them for all your communications. Fraudsters will often try to move their activity off reputable dating sites as soon as possible
  • Avoid meeting someone you have only spoken to online

What to do if you have been scammed

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately
  • Use the web to search for the story that the person is telling you, to see if anyone else has experienced something similar. You can also perform a ‘reverse image search’ of their profile picture or images that they have sent you, to see if they are anywhere else online. This would be a sign that they aren’t using their own images. Websites such as tinyeye.com allow you to do this
  • If you believe you’ve been scammed, you can report a romance scammer here
  • If you have transferred money via a card, contact the card issuer as soon as possible to notify them


* UK Finance - Fraud The Facts 2019


Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551