Dating scams are becoming more and more common, and whilst women tend to be the higher percentage of victims, men are also falling for this type of scam.
The average scenario is that two people ‘meet’ via a dating app. They meet physically and at some point begin a relationship. It is apparent in most of these scenarios that the victim has money, or at least access to money via various means.
The scammer lavishes attention on their victim, showering them with gifts. Whenever they meet it is always either at the victims property or a hotel/ restaurant etc. The victim can never go to the scammers’ house for one reason or another; building work, lives too far away and so on.
As the relationship progresses the scammer will start with asking for small amounts of money, usually for some innocuous reason, and always with a promise of it being paid back; sometimes it is, (this is part of the elaborate scheme to build trust). The amount or amounts get larger, but by this time the victim is smitten with their new partner, until one day the scammer asks for the largest amount yet, and although doubt plays on the victims mind they pay, only to never hear from the scammer again.
Mark Acklom, who allegedly posed as an MI6 agent to con a divorcee from Gloucestershire out of her £850,000 life savings, disappeared in 2012. Carolyn Woods alleged Mr Acklom posed as an MI6 agent and Swiss banker and conned her into “lending” him her savings during a year-long romance in Bath in 2012. (Acklom was arrested in 2018 in Zurich).
Conman claimed to be SAS hero and told sick lies about soldier deaths to scam £30k from Match.com lovers. Married Ian Reynolds, 42, told his victims he was a member of the Army Special Forces unit to explain long absences – when he was actually at home with his wife and children. He told his victims he desperately needed cash for military kit he ‘needed to survive’ and to pay for his dad’s ‘cancer treatment’. He also made up stories of comrades who had died in conflict and claimed he needed money for travel expenses to a funeral of a non-existent colleague.
July 10, 2018. “My sister-in-law fell into the Military Romance scam through Facebook and was scammed for over $8,000.00 until we realised what was happening”.
2018, “I’ve been scammed by a love interest of over 10,000 before I realised it was a scam”
The above are some examples of a number of ways people are scammed out of money, sometimes the victim will not even meet the scammer; they will be somewhere like Russia, Thailand, West Africa using a fake profile online. They will request money for travel to meet up, for packages that need to be delivered, visas, credit for their phones, and one that I heard of was a man asking for money to bribe officials because he was being held in jail somewhere in Asia!
Warning signs of scams when online dating
The explosion in social media and online dating has led to new ways for con-artists to work their trade. The “catfish” scam is one such way. Named such as it is all about exaggeration, untruths, and being farfetched, like the old fisherman’s tale.
The favoured targets of such scams are the lonely, vulnerable and more isolated individuals, although some scams are so good that even more “street smart” people fall for them (see above).
It’s important to identify such scams before you become financially and emotionally involved.
People who spend a lot of time online tend to be more likely targets. This is because they are likely to have less of a social circle offline, although not always the case, some ‘professional’ people who have fallen victim to these scams say “I don’t have time to go dating, so dating sites let me sit at home and ‘shop’”. Online dating sites are prime hunting ground for catfish scams, as the people on them often don’t tell friends and family.
It is thought that 8 out of 10 profiles on some sites may be fake.
The old adage ‘everyone lies on their CV’ must ring true for dating profiles. Let’s face it, you are selling yourself so you are going to embellish your attributes and omit the bits that don’t show you in a good light.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
So What Are The Warning Signs?
Unusual Social Profiles
Low number of friends
None existent on social media
Unusual profile pictures/look like a model/lack of identifying features for the location/or only “holiday” snaps
No Friends and family
Scammers tend to steal pictures from other people so have limited access to new ones
An easy way to check if these pictures are from the internet is to do a reverse image search
They want to develop the relationship quickly
Scammers ultimately want money; they won’t waste time in developing the relationship to the point of “loving” you, even though they’ve never met you.
They will usually be the first to declare love.
They will make statements and ask questions designed to assess your levels of sympathy/generosity/vulnerability. Claiming to have a dead spouse or child is a favoured way of judging how sympathetic someone is.
*We investigated a scammer who targeted a clients’ wife, claiming to have lost a child some years previously. After periods of surveillance and an investigation we found out that nothing the scammer had told our clients’ wife was true, including losing his daughter in a road traffic accident.*
They may not know much about their career choice. Any questions will be responded to with quotes from search results.
They may have little local knowledge of the areas they grew up in, work in, live in.
Ask them questions, if answers are wrong or vague, or the questions deflected then the warning signs are there.
They are online, but don’t know how to or can’t use things such as Facebook, twitter, skype etc.
Spelling and Grammar
Scammers often claim to have good jobs and careers. As such they should have good language skills and be educated.
Look for basic grammatical errors.
Poor use of language.
Many are based abroad and not using their native tongue. Some are pretending to be something they are not.
Most will claim to travel a lot (usually makes a good excuse to be out of phone signal etc.).
They will enjoy nice holidays.
Usually adventurous or charitable.
Will occasionally mention the “dead partner” an “accident” or such.
A lot of interests. They will ensure they share an interest with you to build your trust.
Scammers invariably have a great career, usually one that takes them abroad.
Military (usually special forces), or MI5/MI6 is a favoured one as it allows claims of being in remote areas and unable to access phone or internet, and it allows them the freedom to be out of contact for periods of time by claiming to be going on ‘missions’.
Oil rig worker seems to also be an emerging trend, again this allows for periods spent away from the victim (more often than not the scammer is with their family).
Whatever career they state will usually be well paid. Then when they ask for money it’s believable they’ll pay it back on their return to the U.K.
The ultimate aim of the scam is to get money.
A disaster will usually befall the person just after they tell you they love you.
An accident in a remote area, no access to their UK account and a need to pay medical bills.
Think about your security for online banking, are they asking questions that could identify passwords and answers to security questions. (Where were you born/mother’s maiden name/ pets names etc.)
Think, if they are such a great person, why don’t they have friends and family in the UK who can send money?
* We recently had a client who gave significant amounts of money to someone to invest. The scammer manufactured a way to change the email access and password, withdrew the funds and then disappeared.*
How Can A Private Investigator Help?
Whilst there are things you can do yourself, such as reverse image searches and looking for them on social media and such, a Private investigator will be more familiar with common scams, and finding people.
You could hire a Private detective to search birth records, addresses and various databases for evidence to corroborate, and prove wrong, the story the suspected scammer tells you.
Contact us if you suspect you are a potential scam victim, or have been in the past: