Dating and romance scams

Most dating websites and chatrooms operate legitimately in the UK, but fraudsters have been known to use them to elicit money from people. Dating and romance scammers lower their target’s defences by first building an online relationship, then asking for increasingly large sums of money. Well-meaning men and women have both fallen victim to this. Find out more about dating and romance scams.

What you should know

Be wary of giving out personal information on a website or chat room. Scammers will quickly interact with you, often showing you glamorous photos of themselves and gaining your trust. But how do you know it is actually the person you are communicating online with? The answer is that you don’t!

A scammer will make conversation more personal to draw information from you, but will never really tell you much about themselves that can be checked or verified.

They will normally try to steer you away from communicating on a legitimate dating website that could be monitored by staff. Their preference is to communicate via email, text and phone, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.

A scammer can use a range of scenarios to target your emotions and get you to part with your money.

They may claim they have an ill relative or they are stranded in a country they don’t want to be in. They may not ask you directly for money, hoping instead that you’ll offer it out of the goodness of your heart. You must not.

Never send money abroad to a person you have never met or to anyone you don’t actually know and trust. Likewise, never agree to keep your online relationship a secret. This is a ploy to get you not to tell your family and friends who will see the scam for exactly what it is.

Equally, do not accept any offer of money. A scammer may ask you to accept money from them into your own bank account. They will come up with a convincing story as to why they can’t use their own bank account. The circumstances may appear to be genuine, but you may unwittingly be committing the criminal offence of money laundering.

Holiday fraud

Holiday fraud is on the increase as holidaymakers use holiday booking websites more and more. Scammers will list a hotel room or accommodation that is not available or does not exist. Often victims only become aware of the scam when they arrive at their destination, by which time the fraudster is long gone.

What you should know

Scammers may ask for payment by direct bank transfer, away from the website. They may entice you to do this by offering discounts for bank transfer payments. Don’t be tempted.

A scammer will often use photos of accommodation copied from other sites on the internet. You can use an image search engine (such as Google Images) to check where else on the internet an image has been used.

The scammer, or their advert, may claim that they belong to a legitimate trade body or consumer protection scheme, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Contact the body or scheme to check the person’s credentials.

Try and research the property yourself. See if it has its own website. Always try and call the owner of the property to confirm they are aware of your potential booking. If their phone number is not provided, send an email requesting it.

Ticketing scams

Getting tickets to see your favourite band, football team, popular theatre production or festival can be difficult as tickets can sell out quickly. Scammers are taking advantage of this by tempting you to buy tickets that are fake or do not exist. Scammers set up websites offering tickets that they do not have access to and cannot provide but are happy to take payment for.

What you should know

The scammer’s website will offer tickets that have not gone on sale yet or to events that are sold out. You may even receive the tickets you have paid for but when you arrive at the event you find out they are fake or have been reported as lost or stolen and are therefore invalid.

Scammers may tell you a representative will meet you at the event with your tickets and they do not arrive.

Paying for tickets using your credit card offers protection under the Consumer Credit Act if you are scammed. Checking online may also provide details of any negative reviews of the website you intend to use.

Remember, the only way to avoid being scammed is to buy tickets from the promoter, the venue box office, a reputable ticket exchange site or an official agent.

If a website shows the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) logo, you can check if they really are members by contacting STAR directly.