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Is your perfect 10 a scammer? Dating apps swipe left on online scams

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Dating app users will be given in-app tips on how to spot red flags and avoid fraudsters.

As we’re living in an increasingly digital world, including using our tech to find romantic connections, it should come as no shock that in 2021 it was reported that almost a fifth of all relationships in the UK started online. But with unregulated vetting processes and a receptive pool of vulnerable individuals looking for love, these apps and sites can prove the perfect hunting ground for online scammers.

As a result, one of the biggest names in the industry, and parent company of Tinder, Match and Hinge, Match Group, has started to roll out in-app warnings for users to make them more aware of the tactics fraudsters use to swindle victims out of thousands.

Dating app scams are a common type of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud in which scammers use dating apps to connect with individuals and begin a ‘romantic relationship’ in order to manipulate the victim into sending money or personal information.

APP scams rely on the ‘faster payment’ systems employed by most banks, in which the victim authorises an instantaneous payment (that they believe to be genuine) to the fraudster’s account. Usually, the money is then moved straight onto another, overseas account, and the funds can no longer be traced, leaving the victim out of pocket and the fraudster nowhere to be found.

In the UK, banks have a duty to put in place processes, procedures and safeguards to prevent these types of scams from taking place, but increasingly it is being found that these protocols are not always enough to keep customers safe. Now the dating apps themselves are raising awareness of the red flags, warning signs and dangers of falling victim to scams within the platform.

In January 2023, Match Group announced that it would be adding safeguards to its various dating app platforms to help warn users and prevent scams.

Some of the features include:

  • ‘Selfie’ verification on sign-up
  • In-app video calling
  • Pop-up warning messages when certain, suspicious language is detected in chats
  • In-app tips and prompts about behaviour to watch out for
  • Emails to all users with details of scam red flags

Buddy Loomis, Senior Director of Law Enforcement Operations and Investigations at Match Group said about the announcement:

“We are committed to investing in building the safety tools available to users by leveraging technology and resources that aim to help users protect themselves from the harms in the world around them and make safer connections.”

The nature of a dating app may mean that some intense flattery, over keen-ness to speak to you outside of the app and over-sharing of ‘sob-stories’ may seem like part and parcel of forming a romantic connection, but it is important for users to know the difference between a genuine suitor and a fraudster.

Some of the warning signs that the person you’re speaking to may not be as authentic as you had hoped include:

  • Perfect pictures and limited profiles: scammers will often use images taken from the internet to make their profiles, sometimes using model or glamour shots to look more attractive, and their profile information will likely be surface-level or vague. A reverse image search can be used to check suspect images.
  • Let’s move this to WhatsApp: a scammer might try to get you to use other chatting apps very quickly such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS texting apps, to get around the safeguards that dating apps have in place to spot scams.
  • I just called to say I love you: in order to manipulate and establish an emotional connection and sense of trust with the victim, dating app scammers will express strong feelings such as love at a very early stage, but will never agree to meet in person.
  • No pictures, please: as the scammer is unlikely to be who they say they are, they will consistently avoid video calls, so as not to be caught out!
  • Between you and me: in order to avoid raising suspicions with friends and family of the victim, the scammer will often ask to keep the relationship, and any financial transactions, a secret.
  • Money, money, money: ultimately, the scammer will ask you to send them money, this may be small amounts at first, and for a range of apparently plausible reasons such as ‘family emergencies’, plane tickets, or medical treatment. They may also ask you to invest in a ‘low risk, high return’ cryptocurrency scheme – but the only person getting rich quick is the scammer.

While none of us want to believe that the person we’re connecting with is at best, a catfish, and at worst, a criminal, it is important to stay vigilant on dating sites, especially when it comes to your money.

If you, a friend or a loved one has been targeted by a dating app scam and have lost money, the first thing to do is report the scam to your bank, Action Fraud, and the police.

Unfortunately, in the case of Authorised Push Payment, the money has often already been moved on by the time the scam is reported and is virtually impossible to recover. To make things worse, the banks may conclude that it is not their responsibility to refund the loss.

However, given the growing prevalence of online scams and money laundering, and as industry experts, banks have a duty of care to their customers to prevent such fraud. There are an increasing number of cases where banks have been found to have failed in this duty, and customers have been compensated. Disputes between financial institutions such as banks and their customers can be independently investigated by the Government backed Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). FOS has the power to make compensation awards, putting fraud victims in the position they would have been in had the fraud not happened.

Sarah Spruce, Head of the APP fraud team at TLW Solicitors comments:

“It is encouraging to see the dating app platforms trying to raise awareness around these types of scams, if users are made aware of the warning signs when they are actually using the app, they can take steps to safeguard themselves.

However, we do see victims of these scams who are too ‘embarrassed’ to report it as they feel ashamed, or foolish that they did not spot the warning signs and red flags, that to others, and often in retrospect, seemed obvious. The statistics show that these victims are not alone, and it is important for them to know that there is somewhere to turn to and someone who can fight their corner.”

If you, a loved one or a friend has been the victim of an online romance scam, get in touch for a no-obligation, confidential conversation to go through the available options. We work on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, so if we do take on your case and are unsuccessful, you will not be charged for the work we have done.

Our sophisticated case management systems and years of expertise in the team is the perfect combination to ensure that your case is handled empathetically, effectively and efficiently so that you get the best possible outcome.

Call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or fill out one of the forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Romance Scam Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.

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