Scammers were responsible for nearly 1.4m cases of fraud in the UK during the first half of 2023 – that’s one every 12 seconds.
UK Finance, which collates data on behalf of high street banks, said it was particularly concerned by the 29% jump in romance scams, making it one of the fastest growing categories.
If you’re navigating the world of online relationships, it’s important to remain cautious; verify the authenticity of profiles, avoiding sharing personal or financial information with strangers online, and be wary of requests for money or gifts.
People across Teesside, like the rest of the world, are increasingly using the internet to meet others, and these romance scams often start on dating sites or social media. Here at VCAS (Victim Care and Advice Service) we’re here to support victims of crime across Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland – we also want to help spread the message so you, your family and friends can be aware and stay safe online.
How can I stay safe online?
By spreading the word and education as many people as possible, we can fight romance scam as a community. Our team of Victim Care Officers have come up with their top tips to stay safe:
- Stay Wary of Suspicious Profiles: Be cautious of profiles that seem too good to be true or exhibit inconsistencies in information, photos, or stories. Scammers often use attractive photos and fake identities to lure victims.
- Take Your Time: Avoid rushing into an online relationship. Scammers may try to escalate the relationship quickly to gain your trust. Take your time to get to know someone and watch out for any pressure to move things along rapidly.
- Protect Personal Information: Refrain from sharing sensitive personal details, such as your home address, financial information, or social security number, with someone you’ve met online. Legitimate connections won’t push for this information early on.
- Be Cautious of Requests for Money: Be wary of any requests for money or financial assistance, especially if you haven’t met the person face-to-face. Scammers often create elaborate stories about emergencies or financial hardships to exploit victims.
- Verify Identities and Photos: Use tools available on social media or perform a reverse image search to verify the authenticity of profile pictures. Genuine individuals typically have consistent and verifiable online presences.
- Keep Conversations Within the Platform: Avoid moving communications to external messaging apps or emails too quickly. Most legitimate dating platforms have built-in safety measures and moderation.
- Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your intuition and don’t hesitate to step back or end communication if you feel uncomfortable or suspicious.
- Stay Informed: Educate yourself about common tactics used in romance scams. Awareness of red flags and common scammer behaviors can help you identify potential threats.
- Report Suspicious Activity: If you suspect someone might be attempting to scam you or others, report their profile or activity to the platform’s moderators and consider informing authorities through channels like Action Fraud.
- Seek Advice and Support: If you suspect you’ve encountered a romance scam or have concerns, seek advice from friends, family, or professionals. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or guidance.
Remember, while online relationships can be genuine and fulfilling, staying vigilant and cautious is essential to protect yourself from falling victim to romance scams. If you feel you may be involved in a romance scam and you need confidential, free advice – contact the VCAS team.
We’re here to help and you are not alone.