The rise of internet dating scams during the pandemic

The rise of internet dating scams during the pandemic has seen many people across the UK, both men and women, duped out of their life savings. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease we take a look at the dangers of both dating “in real life” and app dating.

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we live, work, think and even date, although the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown shows a light at the end of a very dark tunnel, there are some things which will stay changed forever. As we adapt to a new way of living we need to be aware of new ways which our private data and money can be at risk from scam artists.

In the years before the pandemic, internet dating scams were already on the rise as the development of technology gave scammers increasing amounts of anonymity. However, during the pandemic when app dating became “the norm” and our social lives were curbed by government restrictions, the likes of Hinge and Tinder apps or dating sites such as Match.com became the only way to meet people.

As such the rise of romance scams and dating fraud sky rocketed. According to data, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud with direct links to dating scams in 2020 compared to 2019. In monetary terms, a huge £68m was stolen in 2020. According to Action Fraud, in both 2019 and 2020, the money lost through romance scams was more than online shopping fraud for the first time.

It’s undeniable that romance scams are a daily danger to those looking for love but why is it that we saw such a huge increase in internet dating scams during the pandemic.

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Tony Smith our Head of Operations at Insight Investigations commented:

“Online fraudsters react to the world around them and seek out any new opportunity to exploit and create new methods of deception. The increase in dating app usage mixed with the increasing levels of loneliness caused by lockdown isolation was the perfect storm for fraudsters to try and capitalise on.”

“The risk online daters run is thinking that now restrictions have been lifted the risks previously posed in lockdown, no longer exist. As with all things, lockdown has changed the way we use dating apps and the associated fraud risks forever. As such anyone using dating apps must adapt to the new risks they face and be aware of the tricks and tactics used by internet dating scam fraudsters.”

The key things to remember when starting a new relationship with someone you met online or through a dating app are:

  • Use reputable dating sites which clearly lay out how they keep their community and members safe
  • Don’t pursue a relationship with someone without establishing some simple facts first, these can be easily verified using search engines and social media sites
  • Your personal data should be protected just as much as your money in the bank – it’s just as valuable. Never reveal data such as date or place of birth, address or any other details which could allow someone to gain access to your bank accounts
  • Dating apps provide a messenger service and this should always be used rather than moving to your phone’s messenger service or WhatsApp
  • The biggest rule to stick to when online or app dating is to never send money or share your bank details with someone, no matter how much their story seems believable, or how in need they may be. If someone is asking you for money it is most likely an internet dating scam

Now that some normality has started to resume with the country firmly on the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s easy to think that the risks associated with internet dating scams during the pandemic no longer exist. Not only do online daters need to be vigilant, they also need to be aware still. There are also some key things to remember in order to stay safe whilst dating “in real life”.

Tony Smith Insight’s Head of Operations commented:

“Unfortunately the pandemic has caused a huge number of relationships to break down meaning there are more people than ever looking for love. For many this may be their first foray into dating and inexperience can make for dangerous situations. Whether it be through apps or meeting people out in social situations, safety should always be paramount.”

There are some simple steps you can take when venturing into the world of dating “in real life” so that you can relax and enjoy your romantic date:

  • Always meet someone for the first few dates in a public space which has lots of other people around. If someone asks you to go round to their apartment or house, you should insist on meeting somewhere where there are other people
  • Ensure your friends and family know when you’re going on a date.  Giving someone the date, time and location of your date means that if anything was to go wrong your loved ones know where you are. Through WhatsApp and other inbuilt messaging functions you have the ability to share your ‘live location’ with a designated loved one so they can see where you are at any given time
  • Plan transport to and from your date well, if you fancy having a drink and do not wish to drive then make sure you know the nearest train or bus station close to where you’re meeting or that cab hailing apps cover that particular area so if things feel off you can leave quickly
  • It’s always advisable to have a phone conversation or even video call before meeting up with a new date to ensure they are who they say they are. It can also calm the nerves before meeting up with someone you don’t know and can help conversation flow when you finally meet 

If you feel that a loved one is at risk of an online romance scam or you are concerned for the welfare of a loved one in any capacity, then please use our contact form or call the number below for a free consultation 24 hours a day, seven days a week with one of our dedicated fraud or missing persons team specialists.

24/7 Help & Advice

0800 540 4740

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