Barclays has alerted Britons to a “cost of loving” crisis, as romance scams have surged by 60 percent. Sadly, scammers are continuing to target innocent, unsuspecting Britons, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake.
These fraudsters are coming up with new tactics to pull on people’s heartstrings, including pretending to need money to help with food, bills and other essentials.
One woman from London fell victim to a cruel romance scam, handing over £300 in total to the person she had built up trust with on a social network.
Commenting on her experience, Sarah said: “This person really made me feel I could trust them, at first building a friendship with me on a gaming social network before it turned more romantic.
“They shared pictures of themselves, so I had no reason to believe they weren’t who they said they were.”
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The pair chatted for three months, before the scammer began to ask for money.
Sadly, this is a common technique used to build up trust and a relationship to make someone more likely to part with their hard-earned cash.
Sarah continued: “They never asked for cash outright, but would frame it in a way that made me feel guilty for them.
“They said they needed my help, claiming to need money to buy food. Because we had built that relationship, I felt like I should help.”
However, after a while, Sarah’s suspicions were raised when the person’s story and the details they shared did not seem to add up.
Sarah added: “It really impacted my trust levels as I didn’t just lose money, but felt betrayed and lied to.”
When using dating apps and social media websites, there are several “red flags” to look out for, Barclays has warned.
Firstly, Britons should look out for profiles with only one or no photo, or glamorous photos showing off a lavish lifestyle. If a person can do a reverse image search, this should help them to discover if the images have been taken from somewhere else.
Next, if someone replies within seconds of a person sending them a message, individuals could be speaking to a “spam bot” trying to lure them in, and lead them to another website.
Some profiles could try to direct a person to click on a link to find out more about them, but suspicious links should always be avoided.
While an early declaration of love can feel like a nice gesture, scammers often do this to play on a victim’s emotions, and manipulate them.
Similarly, if a person tries to come up with various excuses as to why they cannot meet, there is a strong chance they are not who they claim to be.
Finally, the biggest red flag to look out for is a request for money. This could be for a perceived emergency, or investment opportunity, for example. But Britons should always question why someone may be asking them for funds, and also seek a second opinion on the matter.
Data from the bank has shown people lose some £10,000 on average to this type of scam, with 36 percent of Britons either being targeted personally, or knowing someone that has.
Ross Martin, head of digital safety at Barclays, said: “Dating apps and social media can be a great way to meet people, but it’s important to remember that not everyone you speak to will have the best of intentions.
“Scammers can be very manipulative and will play on your emotions to get you to send them money. When they pull at your heartstrings, claiming to need money to pay for food or bills, it can be hard to say no, but you should never feel pressured into doing this.
“Remember, if something doesn’t seem right, always speak to someone you trust – whether that’s a friend, family, or your bank – for a second opinion.”