How to detect and avoid romance scams

How to Avoid and Detect Romance Scams

Dating sites are not just a place to find love, they can also be where scammers are finding their next victims.

It's not just dating sites either, the Wall Street Journal reports that social media networks like Facebook are battling users who steal other people's photos for their own use.

Facebook says it is currently testing a process for alerting users when other accounts have the same profile and name.

The company have also said that people shouldn't accept suspicious friend requests because that's how some scammers access their victims.

Here's how you can protect yourself from social scams:

1. Reverse image search

This is how you can find out if one of the pictures is appearing somewhere else. Download and save the photo and then upload it to Google's image search engine, the results will show where that photo has shown up before on web pages.

2. Check with your parents

Elderly people who feel isolated may welcome a friendly voice at the end of the phone but they can be especially vulnerable to scammers. Be alert to changes in behaviour and keep your eye out for any potential signs of a scam.

3. Watch for high pressure emergencies

Scammers will manufacture emergencies, such as a bad car accident or trouble overseas as a way to ask for money.

4. Don't share personal information

Don't send any of your personal details to anybody that you haven't met in person. In particular don't send any money electronically, because it is nearly impossible to recover the money should something go wrong.

5. Don't accept money from strangers

Scammers may ask you to hold money and then transfer it to someone else at a later date - which is a form of money laundering.

6. Don't be afraid to report fraud

Contact the police, bank and credit card companies and make sure you document the crime and always check for suspicious activity on credit reports and bank statements.

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Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.
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