Romance scams

Some dating profiles are set up by fraudsters to manipulate people into sending them money.

How can you tell if an online relationship is genuine or fake? 

We uncover the techniques that fraudsters use to draw people into a romance scam.

How fraudsters influence people

Fraudsters know how to set up, influence and isolate people with messages.

They want to take control and it’s very hard for a person in a relationship to recognise they’re being manipulated.

But the warning signs are there if you know where to look. 

Fraudsters create dating profiles

It’s quite easy for a fraudster to come across as genuine. They may seem pleasant and chat about things like their work, home and family. But it’s all a lie to convince someone they’re real and not dangerous so they can take advantage.

If somebody from a dating site or app asks for money, it’s a scam.

Will they meet in person?

Fraudsters can’t meet, video call or talk on the phone because they’re not who they say they are. They’re pretending to be a different person and will hide behind their messages. Sometimes, they agree to meet but will find an excuse or a problem to cancel.

Fraudsters use photos of other people, but there’s a way to check if a photo is of someone else.

Do they want to chat elsewhere?

Be suspicious if an online date suggests chatting elsewhere, like another app or messaging service. Fraudsters want to avoid being reported on a dating site or app. They also want to get more information they can use to manipulate someone. Wait until they agree to meet in person before chatting elsewhere. Fraudsters use the same messages to scam different people at the same time. If you’re not sure, search online to find out if these messages have been exposed.

Fraudsters may want access to a bank account or ask for sensitive information, such as passport details.

Tell others about a relationship

To stay in control, fraudsters will try to keep people away from their loved ones. They may talk about trust and keeping things a secret. And they may ask for intimate details, because once you’ve shared them, you might avoid telling other people.

Share an online relationship with a family member or real-life, trustworthy friend.

Do they ask for money?

A romance scam can often last a long time. Fraudsters need to build trust with a person before asking them for money. It’s a warning sign when an online date wants help with money. They may pretend to be unwell or say that they can’t afford a bill or to pay for travel to meet in person.

Only a fraudster would ask for money, a loan, or to transfer money for them.

Is it really them in a photo?

Check if a person online is using a stolen photo.

Find a website that offers a free reverse image search and follow their instructions.

If the image appears elsewhere on the internet with a different name, it’s a sign of a romance scam.

Mary’s story

Can you identify any of the tricks in this real-life romance scam?

I joined a Facebook group of a film I loved and a member called Paul sent a private message.

We stayed in the group until Paul suggested WhatsApp, where our chat became more about our lives.

We messaged daily and Paul shared photos of himself, some with his daughter. We even spoke on the phone, but Paul never wanted to video call.

Sadly, Paul’s bank account was blocked and he couldn’t get any money.

He sent photos of bank statements showing £1 million was due to clear and more in savings. I agreed to help and sent gift cards and some money. 

Suddenly, Paul’s daughter fell ill and needed an urgent kidney transplant. I saw photos of her in hospital and the doctor caring for her sent a message. 

Paul was overseas with the army. He asked me to pay the hospital bill, promising to pay me back when his bank was okay to use again. I said yes and had to send money to a lady named Monique, who dealt with the payments for the hospital.

I couldn’t afford to send any more, but Paul suggested I get a loan. This made me nervous, so I told my daughter who made me realise I’d been the victim of a romance scam.

I ended the relationship but lost over £14,500. If I hadn’t told my family, I could have lost a lot more than just my money.

It took me a while to get over Paul, but I’m happy now and with someone I’ve met in person who loves me.

And one last thing: If a relationship feels pressured or secretive, never be afraid to talk to someone about it as it could be a fraudster.

Support for victims of a romance scam

Being a victim of a romance scam won’t just hurt financially. Realising that a relationship is not real can trigger many challenging emotions. Feelings of hurt, embarrassment and shame are common. There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, as romance scams are more common than people think.

There are organisations that can offer support.

Please report a romance scam to Action Fraud in England and Wales, and to the police in Scotland on 101.

Always phone 999 in an emergency.

Other scams fraudsters use to trick you

Do you know how to avoid social media scams, an investment scam or what to look out for if a fraudster pretends to be your bank?

Social media scams

Did you know fraudsters set up fake profiles just to steal money?

Stay safe on social media

Scam calls

Find out how fraudsters can use your details to win your trust.

Avoid scam calls

Investment scams

Fraudsters pretend to be genuine companies and advisers.

How to invest safely

Learn about the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

Go to latest scams

Have you been targeted by fraudsters?

Contact us right away if you think you've been scammed. We can then guide you on what to do next.

Contact us now

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud