Do not let online romance fraud and scams kill the mood during the month of Love.

Rose are red
Violets are blue
Make sure your online lover
Isn’t catphishing you

Catphishing and other love-related scams have surged in recent times. They have generated more losses for consumers than any other type of fraud, not to mention a string of broken hearts. These criminals typically find their victims online through fake profiles on dating sites and chat rooms. Their fake profiles create a picture of exciting lifestyles and expensive tastes, all designed to snare someone looking for their ideal partner.

A common ploy is for the fraudsters to present themselves as sympathetic characters. They appeal for friendship over a period of time by sharing sad stories of heartbreak or recent loss and their need for companionship. Their sob stories encourage victims to start sharing more personal information of their own. The conversation then quickly moves from the dating site or chat room to WhatsApp, SMS and even emails.

This is when the games begin:

  • Their “job” requires lots of travel, so they may not be available all the time to talk. They will usually have job profiles that say:
    • They are an international model
    • They are a doctor/volunteer working for an international organisation
    • They are in the military
    • They are a scientist working in remote location
  • They suddenly experience a family emergency and urgently need some money to be paid. They cannot do it as they are travelling at the moment and cannot access their banking site from where they are.
  • They claim to have sent you a gift via the post office or a courier, but you need to pay some admin fee so that the gift can be released to you.
  • They claim that they have booked a romantic holiday for the two of you, but cannot make payment as there is a problem with their bank cards, which they are trying to sort out.
  • They always make plans to meet you and cancel at the last minute. 

Should you arrange a meeting with someone you have never met in person, make sure that it is in a very public place and invite your friends as well.

The common denominator in this type of fraud is that the criminals constantly look for opportunities to ask for money. They tend to target people between the ages of 40 and 69, but people of all ages can be vulnerable.

How can you protect yourself from such scams?

  • NEVER send money to anyone that you have been communicating with via the internet and have not met in person.
  • Do not trust video calls with these scamsters: they hire people to act as your love interest.
  • These scamsters usually have several people working in their syndicate. You could be talking to many different people without realising it, so look out for inconsistencies in grammar, sentences and even different types of font in emails. These scamsters often copy and paste the same content in many different conversations.
  • Do not share too much personal information on dating sites and social networking sites. This information is used by scamsters to scout for targets.
  • If you suspect that you are being targeted by a scammer, stop all communication immediately and report the profile to the dating site or the social network site. You can also block all communication from the profile.
  • NEVER share your banking details with these scamsters, even if they promise to send you money so that you can visit them. If you suspect that your African Bank details have been compromised, please report it immediately to our Ethics and Fraud Hotline on 0800 633 633, or email us on [email protected]

Remember to always be alert. You may be left heartbroken, but that’s nothing compared to being left broke.

 

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