Dating website and app fraud (Romance fraud)

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Text updated 13 February 2018
Links updated 4 January 2018

Information is emerging on the growing misuse of dating websites and apps by criminals who are out to extortion money from innocent users. The problem has become known as “romance fraud”.

More than 350 new scams a month are now being reported to Action Fraud. Many of these are targeting the users of dating services.

The most common scam sees a fraudster gaining the trust of a victim and convincing them they have met their ideal partner. The con artist then claims to need money to pay medical bills, or some other need for a large amount of money quickly, such as the need to pay off a debt or travel fees. When the victim transfers the money, that is the last they hear of them.

It isn’t only money they want. They also trick victims into parting with information, photos or videos that could be used to extort money from them, or blackmail them.

There are as yet no statistics which concentrate on just gay victims of these criminals. These are the figures released by Action Fraud in January 2017 for the whole community.

2013: Number of scams: 2,824. Total money extorted: £27,344,814.
2014: Number of scams: 3,295. Total money extorted: £32,259,839.
2015: Number of scams: 3,363. Total money extorted: £25,882,339.
Average lost per victim: around £10,000.

Most of the scams come from people in East Europe and Africa.

DateSafe released their figures for the whole UK for the whole of 2017. 3,557 frauds were reported and on average victims lost £11,500 to the fraudsters. The total sum reported lost was a staggering £41,000,000.

63% of victims were female, and 37% were male. 43% of the victims told DateSafe that their experience had had a significant effect on their health and wellbeing, while 18% of victims faced bankruptcy or had received medical treatment as a result of romance fraud.

DateSafe found that older people were more likely to be victims. 13% of victims were aged under 30. 22% of victims were in their forties, and 25% were in their fifties.

Gay dating apps have also been used by at least one murderer to lure victims to their death.

If you use dating websites and apps, you are advised to take precautions.

Keep all communications within the app. Do not give them your phone number or e mail address.

If you see anything that is suspicious, such as an iffy communication or a suspicious profile, report it, and disconnect immediately from that app user.

Concentrate on meeting people from your own country and locality, culture and language.

Maintain vigilance while using apps and websites.

Have a friend with you for the first meeting with someone you have never met before and choose a public place for the meeting.

Gay Activist is sorry to hear of anyone being lonely, and hope you find your ideal partner soon. Here are two good hints to make it easier to find a partner.

Join something. Volunteer and take part in something. You will get to know the other volunteers and employees, and they may be able to introduce you to someone trustworthy.

Use a partnership introduction bureau. They actually meet and interview all their clients and should check them out. There will be a fee, but I know a number of gay couples who met each other through introduction agencies, and they are still together.

Home Pages

Action Fraud

Articles

Daily Telegraph, 23 January 2017: Men targetted by romance scammers likely to hand over large sums of money
BBC, 23 January 2017: Online dating fraud victim numbers at record high
Gay History, 20 October 2015: The Barking Murders of Stephen Port, 2014
Gay Activist: Blackmail
New York Post, 3 January 2018: Man who used gay dating app to assault and rob men gets 15 years

SP

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