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Romance Fraud: don’t take the bait

14 February 2020

Romance fraud part two: don't take the bait

It is no surprise that dating sites and app activity skyrockets between December 26 and February 15. The holidays are over, cold weather is just getting colder and nothing sounds better than cuddling up with a partner, resulting in an increase of singles swiping right to find their match. Online dating can be fun and successful for many people, however there is a dark side...

Catfishing is nothing new with fake profiles and photos being used left and right, so common in fact there are seven seasons of the popular MTV show dedicated to catching them. Many of these fake profiles are fraudsters with the sole intention of scamming their matches out of money, ranging anywhere from an evil individual to organised crime.

In 2018, 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, with victims losing over £50m . Of the £12.6m  worth of romance fraud reported to UK Finance - the collective voice for the banking and finance industry - in 2018, only £0.6m was returned to victims.

At times these fake profiles can be quite obvious, such as when you see David Beckham’s ‘profile’ pop up on a dating site… but what about when it isn’t so obvious? What are the signs that singletons should be looking for to ensure they are dating safely online? To help answer these questions we spoke to qualified Dating and Relationships adviser Layla from La la la Let Me Explain, who runs an extremely popular blog and Instagram, @lalalaletmeexplain, dedicated to dating advice. Layla offered us some tips on how to spot red flags when it comes to online dating:

Letting Layla explain

Social media: to your advantage

“When online dating it is important to have fun and to enjoy the process but to also ensure that you keep yourself safe. There are a lot of people online who aren't who they say they are and who aren't engaging with you for the right reasons. If you match with someone and you feel that you want to take the conversation further, then I would recommend exchanging social media details.

Most people have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter these days and if they say they don't this is a potential red flag. Additionally, when you see their social media it is important to check their comments and tags to see that they are a real person with real friends. Many catfishes create fake social media accounts but it is fairly easy to spot those because as stated, there is no evidence of genuine interactions on them.

Face-to-face sooner than later

I highly recommend having FaceTime or WhatsApp video calls with them as early as possible.

Once you have established that the identity matches the person you are speaking to, I would recommend getting a face to face date in place as soon as you feel ready and comfortable. If they keep stalling and coming up with excuses as to why they can't meet, or arranging dates and then cancelling at the last minute then this is another potential red flag. Genuine people who are looking for love want to meet, and if they can't there may be a worrying reason as to why.  

Keep personal finances out of it

Be cautious about giving out too much information regarding your work and finances. Prospective partners don't need to know your financial circumstances and if they ask anything in relation to money or savings then it's a red flag. If they give you sob stories about their financial worries then try not to get sucked in. It can start off very small, after talking for a while they may tell you about their sick dog who needs treatment but that they can't afford it. They may not even ask for money outright, but it can be tempting to offer because you want to solidify a bond by impressing this new person with your kindness and willingness to help.

We should not be lending or giving money to anyone who we are newly dating. EVER. It can be hard to hear sad stories about debt and it can be tempting to help, but we must remember that it is not healthy or normal to be sending money to random people online - even if they don't feel random because you've been talking for a while. 

Some things they just don’t need to know…

Lastly, I would recommend being cautious about the information that you give out to new people.  You can tell them that you work at a shop but I wouldn't tell them the branch or location. Watch out for questions that could lead them to having information that you wouldn't want a fraudster to have. For example, if they ask you your mother's maiden name or your first pet’s name this is a red flag as nobody needs that information so err on the side of caution.

Only a small percentage of people online are dodgy, but those dodgy ones can do huge damage. It's better to be single than to get swindled, so be alert, take your time, but also have fun!”

For more on Layla visit her on Instagram @lalalaletmeexplain.

Been a victim of a romance scam?

Contact your bank straight away if you think you may have fallen victim to a romance scam and you can also report it to the police via the national call centre Action Fraud at 0300 123 2040 or online.

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In collaboration with: Layla Explain

Layla from La la la Let Me Explain is a qualified Dating and Relationships advisor. Find her on Instagram @lalalaletmeexplain.

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In collaboration with: Layla Explain

Layla from La la la Let Me Explain is a qualified Dating and Relationships advisor. Find her on Instagram @lalalaletmeexplain.

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