Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

How to recognise signs of love scams or romance fraud | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans


If you’re dating, chances are you are dating online. While the internet can be a great place to make connections, with many relationships blossoming over a digital connection, there is a darker side – the rise of romance scams, preying on the vulnerable for financial gain. 

These scams have seen a surge in recent years, leaving countless victims in their wake. By December 2022, Singapore citizens had lost S$35.7 million to romance fraud.

Yet, statistics only scratch the surface of the problem. Many victims either remain unaware of the deception or too-often feel a misplaced sense of shame, choosing not to report the crime. We must remove the stigma of romance fraud, if we want to take the power (and money) away from the cyber criminals behind these schemes. 

Romance fraud is often being carried out by organised criminal gangs who target multiple victims at once and spend a long time convincing their victims that the relationship is real. They share playbooks of tactics with one another and – in some cases – lure people into working within the schemes, holding them against their will and forcing them into criminal activity. 

Dr Jessica Barker MBE is the author of Hacked: The Secrets Behind Cyber Attacks (Photo credit: PA Media, via Dr Jessica Barker MBE)

The victims of romance fraud

In these cases, there are two sets of victims: those who are being held captive and forced to carry out the crimes and those who are targeted and manipulated into believing they are having a relationship with someone who does not exist. 

For the second set of victims, the emotional and financial repercussions of falling victim to a romance scam can be devastating, often leaving individuals feeling a profound sense of loss and betrayal. Victims often grieve a relationship that did not truly exist in the first place. 

Beyond this, there can be huge financial losses, with many victims handing over large sums in the belief that they are helping the love of their life, or perhaps that they are funding travel where they will be united at long last. In addition to financial losses, victims may also experience identity fraud, having been coerced into sharing personal information with the criminals. 

How to recognise signs of love scams

Understanding the signs of a scam is the first line of defence against becoming a victim. 

One of the initial warning signs of a romance scam is “love bombing” – an excessive outpouring of affection and attention early in the relationship. 

This tactic aims to foster emotional dependency, accelerating the relationship and making the target more susceptible to future requests for money. 

Gift-giving is another strategy employed by scammers to build trust and obligation. Presented as a gesture of affection, it often leads to requests for financial assistance or personal details under false pretences, such as a gift caught up in customs.

The use of pet names, rather than addressing you by your real name, can indicate a scammer’s attempt to manage multiple targets simultaneously while maintaining the illusion of intimacy. 

A reluctance to engage in face-to-face meetings or video calls is another red flag, often accompanied by various excuses. Although advancements in technology allow for impersonation through AI, avoiding personal contact remains a common tactic among scammers. 

Financial manipulation lies at the heart of romance scams, with scammers gradually building trust before requesting money for various reasons, such as travel expenses or ill health. 

In other cases, the scammers present their victims with supposed investment opportunities, directing them to ‘invest’ money in websites that they secretly control. 

Seeking connection and trusting others are natural human tendencies, which scammers exploit to their advantage. They share their tactics with one another, so now I am sharing them with you in the hope that we can stop them in their tracks. 

Dr Jessica Barker MBE is the author of Hacked: The Secrets Behind Cyber Attacks, published by Kogan Page.





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