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What are they?
Romance scams occur when a criminal uses a fake online profile to form a relationship with you.
Often the relationship is built up over weeks or months. They will find out personal information about you and use this to create their own story so that it often appears like you have things in common.
After your trust is gained, the requests for money will begin. The requests might be small at first, becoming bigger and bigger over time. They might give you highly emotive reasons for needing money, such as for emergency medical care or paying for tickets to come and see you. Sometimes the criminal will make promises to pay you back. There’ll always be a reason why they can’t make the payments themselves.
What to look out for
Even though you message lots, they will avoid things like video or phone calls. Often using excuses like being out of the country for work or having poor signal.
Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you don’t know, especially if you’ve never met them in person or you have only recently met online.
If a love interest has asked you to help them move money this could be a crime, no matter the reason they’ve given you.
How to protect yourself
Speak to a trusted friend or family member to get advice
Stop and think, is this person who they say they are? Could their profile image be fake? You can perform a reverse image search on search engines to find out if a photo has been taken from somewhere, or someone, else.
If you’ve never met someone in person, do not send them money, allow them access to your accounts/devices, or take out a loan for them in your name.
Criminals will ask you to lie to the bank regarding any payment requests. If you’re being told to lie to the bank, it’s a scam.
If a friend or family member is being secretive about a relationship that has started online, expresses strong emotions for someone they have just met, or tells you they are planning to/have sent money to someone that they have never met in person. They could be falling victim to a romance scam.
What to do if you get caught out
If you think you have fallen victim to a romance scam, you’re not alone. Often victims of this type of scam feel ashamed or embarrassed, but it’s important that you let us know what has happened.
You can get in contact with us via one of the numbers on our report fraud pages. You can also dial 159 to be safely directed to your bank.