Spotting the signs of romance fraud – Crimestoppers

Crimestoppers has been working with the City of London Police and Action Fraud to spot the signs of romance fraud and raise awareness of our reporting line which offers individuals a way to speak up with information on the criminals behind the fraud whilst remaining 100% anonymous.

Whether you’re young or old, looking for love or seeking a relationship, our charity is warning everyone to be aware of romance fraudsters. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, there has never been a greater need to protect vulnerable people from fraud and scams.

Across the UK people are meeting online using social networks such as gaming and dating platforms and has become one of the most common ways to meet a partner. Whilst the majority of users are genuine, there is a minority who are hunting for an opportunity to take advantage for financial gain.

It’s estimated that the average victim loses £10,000 during the period of the scam. Across all victims of romance fraud, this equals nearly £100 million in total lost last year. (Referenced by the City of London Police – Romance Fraud Assessment 2022)

This worrying trend has led Crimestoppers to launch a national campaign to specifically highlight the signs to spot and to challenge the stereotype that it is only women who are victims to this cruel scam. Indeed, it can happen to anyone. Victims come from all ages, genders, sexual orientations, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Nearly 45% of men are victims. Additionally, gay men were disproportionately targeted, accounting for over 12% of victims overall in 2021.

How romance scammers operate

Fraudsters could be individuals acting alone, or more commonly they may be part of an international organised crime group. A range of potential victims can be contacted simultaneously. Profiles are carefully tailored to appeal to potential victims who may be lonely, or looking for a connection or romantic partner.

The scammers create profiles using fake or stolen images known as catfishing. They are careful to not set off alarm bells when they ask for money by keeping up stories, dropping pieces of information over time, often months or even years, and by building a wider story on why their need is urgent or must be kept a secret. They often hide behind fake documents and use their victim’s money across complex networks of money mules, cryptocurrency investments, moving money in and out of the UK.

Stop and think: Protect yourself

  • Remember, anyone can pretend to be anyone they want online.
  • Be wary if they’re asking lots of questions about you but not sharing much about themselves.
  • Take a moment to think before parting with your money or information.
  • Never send money to someone you’ve only met online that you don’t know.
  • Never transfer money for them or give them access to your bank account.
  • Never share personal documents, like your passport or driving licence.

Signs to spot:

  • Before you’ve really gotten to know them, they declare their love quickly.
  • They make excuses about why they can’t video chat or meet in person.
  • They try quickly to move your conversations off the platform you met on.
  • When they ask for financial help, it’ll be for a time-critical emergency, and the reason will pull at the heartstrings.
  • They may get defensive if you decline to help.
  • They might tell you to keep your relationship private and not to discuss anything with your friends and family.

Signs to spot in someone you know:

  • They may have recently become quite withdrawn and secretive and not want to be heard when on the phone.
  • They may be showing out-of-character concerns with financial affairs, or have a sudden lack of finances or an unaccountable increase in financial resources.
  • Are they making unusual money transfers or unfamiliar international transfers?
  • Are they making repeat purchases of gift cards and vouchers?
  • Have they become isolated or have they cut off communication with people close to them who attempt to question their relationship?

The link to our campaign page is here –