Online dating is a massive hit with expats who are warned not to let their heart rule their minds as fraudsters target them for cash.
British daters lost £34 million to scammers in 2014 – a third up on frauds in the previous 12 months, says the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Romantics are also hit hardest in the weeks after Valentine’s Day – with a significant increase in the number of kiss and run thieves making off with money from heartbroken victims.
The main sign to watch for is a prospective romantic partner asking for a money transfer.
More than half of fraud victims (54%) lost money to an online transfer via Western Union or MoneyGram, while bank transfers accounted for more than another third of thefts (37%).
Spotting a scammer
To help expats and online daters try to protect their cash, the NFIB has put out of list of tips about how to spot a fraudster:
- Your partner tries to talk you into contacting them outside the dating site or chat room where you meet. Most web sites and chat rooms are secure and can track users, but once you leave the site you have no moderator to turn to for help
- The other person tries to learn a lot of personal information about you, but fails to reveal much about their life and avoid direct answers to simple questions, like where they live and work. They do this so you cannot check them out.
- Their profile image is picture perfect – normal people just do not look like film stars and if the profile picture does not match the person you see on Facetime or a web cam, alarm bells should start ringing
Keeping you and your money safe
Most dating fraudsters work to a script, so the same excuses to ask for money recur time and time again, say NFIB investigators, they include:
- Posing as members of the armed forces stationed overseas who need cash to fly home or buy themselves out of the service
- Begging for help to pay medical costs for a life-threatening operation
- Promising to come and see you – providing you pay for the travel costs
“Trust your instincts and don’t be blinded by love or romance because that’s the emotion these fraudsters are counting on to rob you,” said an NFIB spokesman.
“Don’t give away personal information, keep safe and do not stray outside a web site where you can block a user you do not want to speak to.”