The five warning signs that your new 'girlfriend' or 'boyfriend' is really a scammer

scam A young woman is entertaining with his laptop
Is your new romance actually an online scam?

Romance fraud is incredibly common, and can be almost unimaginably damaging, with victims losing life savings or even their homes.

In the last financial year, 8,036 British people fell victim to romance frauds, losing £92m in total, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

The average victim lost £11,500. So how can you stay safe from online scammers?

Sticking to reputable dating sites is the first step, says Anne Cutler, cybersecurity specialist at Keeper Security.

"To keep yourself safe, always be cautious about sharing sensitive personal information such as your home address, phone number or financial details. If you suspect fraudulent activity, don't hesitate to report it to the dating platform and local authorities.

"Familiarise yourself with the privacy settings on the dating platform and adjust them to your comfort level. When setting up your profile, restrict access and limit the information visible to others."

Cutler says that there are several key warning signs to look out for with any new romance.

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They arrange to meet you and then cancel

Cutler says that a reluctance to meet in person is a key warning that you are dealing with a cybercriminal, not a potential romance.

"Often, scammers will arrange to meet up in person and let the victim down at the very last minute – or they seem hard to pin down and never in one place for long."

Anne Cutler, cybersecurity specialist at Keeper Security (Keeper Security)
Anne Cutler, cybersecurity specialist at Keeper Security.

They ask for very specific information early on

Asking for very specific personal information early in a relationship is a key warning that you are dealing with someone interested in money, not love, Cutler says.

She adds: "It may seem casual, but they'll ask for significant dates or other personal information quite early on in order to socially engineer their victims and gain access to accounts."

They offer strange excuses for why they need money

If any online date starts asking you for money, this is a huge red flag, and you should step back and think about who they really are.

Scammers will often come up with strange stories that seem so out-there they couldn't possibly be false, Cutler says.

"They ask for money – often in very convoluted ways and come up with excuses. For example, they're on a military base without access to their normal funds, but they'll pay you back, etc."

They use phrases like 'it's us against the world'

The classic romance scam will use 'love bombing', when the scammer professes love very early in the relationship.

Cutler says: "The scammer will try to make you feel so loved that you feel helpless, and will use phrases like 'can't imagine life without you' and pressure you to become exclusive."

They are VERY good-looking

Scammers often craft profiles with stolen images from the internet, so a reverse image search can help – although there is also the possibility of AI-generated images.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Cutler adds.