Considering signing up to a dating site? Make sure you don't get your heart broken by a romance scam.
The internet is littered with dating websites, from MySingleFriend, PlentyofFish and Match.com to Guardian Soulmates, Uniform Dating and smartphone app Tinder.
While many legitimate websites help to bring people together every day, stories of online dating scams are a regular occurrence.
£50,766,602 was lost to romance fraud in 2018, an increase of a quarter, according to Action Fraud, with many crimes not reported to the police.
This is largely because the victim is too embarrassed to come forward.
How to avoid being conned
The majority of fraudulent cases involve someone setting up a fake identity using stolen photos and pretending to start a relationship with their victim.
At some point during the relationship, they’ll ask for an urgent sum of money.
To avoid falling victim to an online dating scam, there are several things you can do.
1. Keep your details private
Never share your financial details with someone you meet through an online dating website. Personal information, such as your date of birth, address and passwords should also be kept secret.
2. Choose your website carefully
When you sign up to a website, check the small print on how it verifies new users. Some, such as MySingleFriend.com, won't allow you to join until your profile has been verified by another person. Others won't upgrade a membership until photos have been added, while apps like Tinder require you to have a Facebook account to join.
3. Be on your guard
If you’ve met someone through a dating website it can be hard to tell if they’re genuine or not. One thing which should set alarm bells ringing is if they ask you to transfer cash to them, especially if the reasons are vague and you’ve not actually met them in person.
4. Report anything suspicious
Online dating fraud is a crime and should be reported to Action Fraud as soon as possible. If you receive a suspicious email or message through a website, report it to the site for investigation.
5. Check your accounts
Keeping an eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements on a regular basis is a good way to watch out for any unusual payments.
A number of credit rating agencies offer you a free trial in order to check your credit record.
The cheapest online dating websites
Online dating can be a good way to meet a future partner although the costs vary a lot. Many websites and apps are free while others charge monthly subscriptions of around £30.
So before you sign up, it’s worth working out which ones provide the best value for money to make sure you’re not wasting your cash.
You could save even more money by avoiding the internet and going down the traditional route. Instead of £30 a month – head to a local bar, café or restaurant.
For a fraction of the price you could buy yourself, and your date, a drink or two!
If you've been affected by a romance scam, contact the police's Action Fraud organisation on 0300 123 2040
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