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Most UK dating websites and chatrooms are legitimate, but fraudsters have been known to use them to steal people’s money.
Dating and romance scammers lower their target’s defences by building an online relationship, then asking for larger and larger sums of money. Well-meaning men and women have both fallen victim to this. Find out more about dating and romance scams below.
What you should know
Be wary of giving out personal information on a website or chatroom. Scammers will quickly contact you, often showing you glamorous photos of themselves and gaining your trust.
But how do you know the person you’re talking to (or their photo) is genuine? The answer is that you don’t.
A scammer will make conversation more personal to get information out of you, but won’t tell you much about themselves that you can check or verify.
They’ll normally steer you away from chatting on a legitimate dating site that staff could monitor. They want you to talk on email, text and phone, rather than through the dating site or chatroom where you met.
A scammer tells stories to target your emotions and get you to give them money. They may claim they have an ill relative or are stranded in a country they don’t want to be in.
They may not ask you directly for money, hoping instead that you’ll offer it out of the goodness of your heart. You must not.
Never send money abroad to someone you’ve never met. Never send it to anyone you don’t actually know and trust.
Likewise, never agree to keep your online relationship a secret. This is a ploy to get you not to tell your family and friends, who’ll see the scam for exactly what it is.
Equally, don’t accept any offer of money. A scammer may ask you to accept money from them into your own bank account, using a convincing story as to why they can’t use their own account. The circumstances may seem genuine, but you could unwittingly be laundering money, a criminal offence.
Holiday fraud is on the increase as people use holiday booking websites more and more.
Scammers will list a hotel room or accommodation that isn’t available or doesn’t exist. Often victims only realise it’s a scam when they arrive at their destination, by which time the fraudster is long gone.
What you should know
Scammers may want you to pay them by direct bank transfer, not through the website. They entice you to do this by offering discounts for bank transfer payments. Don’t be tempted.
A scammer will often use photos of accommodation copied from other sites. Use Google Images to check where else an image has been used.
The scammer, or their advert, may claim that they belong to a legitimate trade body or consumer protection scheme, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Contact the body or scheme to check the person’s credentials.
Research the property yourself. See if it has its own website. Always try to call the owner of the property to confirm they know about your potential booking. If you can’t see a phone number, send an email asking for it.
Getting tickets to see your favourite band, football team, play or festival can be difficult as they sell out quickly. Scammers take advantage of this by tempting you to buy tickets that turn out to be fake or their websites offer tickets they can’t provide but are happy to take money for.
What you should know
The scammer’s website will offer tickets that aren’t on sale yet or to sold-out events. You may even get the tickets you paid for, but at the event you find out they're fake, or have been reported as lost or stolen and are therefore invalid.
Scammers may tell you a representative will meet you at the event with your tickets, but they don’t turn up.
Pay for tickets using your credit card, it offers protection under the Consumer Credit Act if you’re scammed.
Check online for negative reviews of the website you want to use.
Remember, the only way to avoid being scammed is to buy tickets from: