Don’t get hooked by a romance scam

Don’t get hooked by a romance scam


Look at you: you’re making money, running your own business, keeping all those plates spinning. At Tide, we know our members are a catch – but that might also make you a target. 

But don’t panic, we’re here to help. As it’s Valentine’s Day, we want to make sure you’re all clued up on romance scams so you won’t get hooked.

Table of contents

What is a romance scam, anyway?

As with the other scams we’ve explored in the Keep your business safe series, the name of the game is to dupe the victim into handing over their hard-earned money. But the tricks used in a romance scam are arguably more damaging on a personal level. That’s because, as the name suggests, this scam focuses on getting the victim to believe they’re in love with the fraudster. 

Often, the interaction will take place online, because it’s easier for the scammer to hide their true identity. They’ll communicate with their victim by text or direct messages on social media, or even create a fake dating profile so they can prey on those looking for love. They might even be so bold as to call their victim or meet them in person – if you’ve watched the Netflix show, ‘The Tinder Swindler’, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

When it comes to matters of the heart, it can be difficult to decide what’s real and what’s fake. We’re not saying that everyone who claims to be romantically interested in you (and asks you for money) is a scammer, but if a situation seems too good to be true, it’s wise to be cautious.

Red flags to help you reel in the fraudsters

  • BE MINE 💖 The cornerstone of any relationship is trust, and that’s truer than ever for romance scams. Fraudsters will go above and beyond to gain their victim’s trust, including making bold declarations of love right from the start of the relationship – this is known as ‘love bombing’. With their victim believing they’re loved up, the requests for money will begin
  • PLS HELP 😢 Think of any book, film or tv show that’s made you cry. It’s because the writer has successfully tugged on your heartstrings to elicit a response. Fraudsters will use this trick too, and employ emotive language to persuade their victims to hand over the cash – we’re talking sob stories such as ‘needing money for medical bills’ or ‘not having anything to eat’. When it comes to a romance scam, the price of love is definitely not free
  • The slow burn 🔥 We’ve talked above about romance scammers coming on strong from the start of a ‘relationship’, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always fade away quickly. Often, fraudsters will play the long game – and it makes sense, right? It takes time to build trust, and fraudsters will try to embed themselves in their victims’ lives so it’s harder to get rid of them. They’ll also ask their victims lots of questions about themselves, and use this information to manipulate them

Don’t get hooked

As we said earlier, it’s good to have a healthy dose of scepticism when it comes to someone you’ve never met in real life – especially if they’re asking you for money. We know that’s easier said than done, though, so we’ve put together some useful tips:

  • Do your research. Sure, it can seem shady to investigate someone you’re potentially in a ‘relationship’ with, but if you’re speaking to someone you’ve never met in real life (or had a video call with), you’ll need to check their identity is genuine. If you watch the TV show Catfish, you’ll know that you can reverse image search any pictures a potential scammer sends you
  • Get advice from others, particularly friends and family. They’ll know you best, and if they’re already concerned about the situation, it’s probably time to take a step back 

  • Don’t do any of these. The faces used by a romance scammer might change, but their tricks stay the same. You should never: 
    • Send them money
    • Give them access to your bank account, or hand over your account to them completely (known as ‘muling’)
    • Transfer money to someone else for them
    • Take out a loan in their name
    • Give them copies of personal documents such as your passport or driving licence
    • Make investments for them (and this includes making your own investments based on their advice)
    • Buy them gift cards or send them the redemption codes – this is a trick often used by scammers so they don’t have to ask you for money outright
    • Agree to take in their parcels or send them out to someone else – if you’re talking to a scammer, it’s likely the contents aren’t what you think they are. They might even be illegal

Share the love – keep your loved ones safe

Feeling confident that you can spot the signs of romance fraud? Remember, scammers aren’t loyal – so it’s not just yourself that you need to worry about. They could target your friends and family, too, so look out for these signs:

  • They’re deeply in love or committed to someone they’ve only just started talking to – especially if they’ve never met them or had a video call
  • They don’t want you to know too much about their new relationship – particularly if they haven’t been like this before
  • They’ve sent money to someone they’ve never met – and they might even be putting themselves at financial risk to do so, or they suddenly seem stressed about money

Break up for good. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, get in touch with your bank immediately. If you’re with Tide, send us an in-app message and we’ll guide you through the next steps. You can also report the incident to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 – and take a look at the other posts in our Keep your business safe series to make sure you’re fighting fit against fraudsters.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema, published on Unsplash

Kiera Woodhull

Kiera Woodhull

Senior Copywriter

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