One of the most common techniques is to build up trust with the person by messaging for weeks or even months before suddenly having an emergency - the fake person being mugged but their daughter needing urgent surgery, for example - and asking for money.But then they suddenly need money for rent too, then food, then medical fees, and it can quickly escalate.Jane*, a middle-aged woman from Warwickshire, had a lucky escape a few years ago when she very nearly handed over a sizeable sum of money to an online scammer who did in fact claim to be an engineer.Her interest was initially piqued when he seemed to have a similar background and heritage to her and they chatted for almost two months, often exchanging messages for at least two hours an evening.So what can you do to avoid being a victim of an online dating scam?Jane advises meeting up with someone sooner rather than later - more often than not, scammers are based abroad and won’t be able to meet you.Around 7.8 million UK adults used online dating sites in 2016, up from just 100,000 in 2000.But just as dating app users are at an all-time high, so is the number of people becoming victims of online dating fraud.
She was all set to meet him at the airport when he suddenly messaged saying his funds had dried up and he needed £5,000.
There was only one thing that seemed a little odd to Jane: his syntax occasionally seemed a little unnatural for a native English-speaker, and when they spoke on the phone, something about his voice didn’t seem to match his pictures.
Jane Googled him and found what looked like an authentic Linked In page and social media profiles as well as information on the projects he claimed to be working on, which seemed legitimate.
And it’s not just particularly vulnerable people who fall victim either.
“[It’s] not the case that stupid people fall for romance scams - they can be very clever,” Professor Monica Whitty, a cyber-psychologist, explains. Scamalytics, a company which runs anti-scammer software for a number of the major dating sites, are trying to reduce online dating fraud by creating profiles of the average male and female con artist.