UK dating scammers reap £39 million

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2016 saw a record high of the number of people fraudulently targeted for scams on UK online dating websites, according to The Victoria Derbyshire programme.


Online dating or internet dating is an online networking system where individuals can find and contact people of similar interests and lifestyles. It is a place for members to look for potential romantic partners, usually in hope of developing personal, romantic or sexual relationships.

Most sites allow for photo and video uploads, and additional services such as online chats, message boards and telephone chats. Users can then browse through photos & profiles to make a selection, and use the online chat to introduce and build rapport. There are many varieties of dating websites, some offer paid services and others are free to use.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reported 3,889 victims of what they call ‘romance fraud’, who handed over cash amounting to a record £39 million.

More than 350 reports of these ‘romance frauds’ are reported every month to the UK’s cyber-crime reporting centre.

Mark James, ESET It Security Specialist, offers his professional advice on how users can stay safe online dating websites.

“Sadly these figures are not surprising at all.

“Most criminals are not stupid, they often know just how to manipulate or pressure people into handing over their hard earned money.

“Generally, we as humans want to trust others; when we are lonely and looking for love it can be easier to be fooled into thinking someone cares for us and are showing some honest affection.

“One of the biggest problems in communication over the internet or mobile devices is we lose that face to face interaction and body language that tells us something is wrong.

“All we see are visually pleasing images and words that are represented quite often by our own feelings.

“If we want company, trust, and love - that’s what we read.

“Once we are “in” for a few pounds it’s often quite hard to stop, because knowing that if we do we will have definitely lost that money, and more importantly lost the chance that they may actually mean well and be telling the truth.

“We have to understand that when on the internet or dealing with others in a non-physical format, we should always at the very least question what we are doing; does it sound legitimate? Could it really be true?

“If we do engage in sending money, we have to treat it like gambling at the casino. Decide on how much you can afford to lose and be prepared to do so.

“It may be the jackpot, and if it is then you can reap the rewards, but sadly in today’s world of scammers and deceivers it’s a more than likely someone else trying to fleece you for all they can.”

Have you ever fallen victim to an online scammer, romantic or otherwise? Let us know on Twitter @ESETUK

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