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WE’RE a nation of romantics at heart, but with the emergence of shows like The Tinder Swindler it’s surprising more of us haven’t sworn off love.
Approximately one in five relationships in the UK begin on the internet, and a staggering nine million people attempt to find love online every day.
Many of us dream about meeting our love match – but not everyone is who they say they areCredit: Alamy
This is despite high-profile horror stories such as The Tinder Swindler circulating, a Netflix film which claims convicted fraudster Simon Liviev tricked multiple victims into believing he was a wealthy diamond heir – claims he vehemently denies.
Here Steve Wilson, UK & Ireland Director at Norton, the global cyber safety company, reveals the seven red flags you need to know about before falling hook, line and sinker for that online love….
Red flag #1: Sworn to secrecy
The first thing any con artist will try to do is to ensure you keep your blossoming ‘romance’ just between the two of you, and will swear you to secrecy.
It sounds like an obvious one, but actually scammers employ a variety of subtle techniques that even the most cynical could fall for.
Steve Wilson says: “Your friends and family may warn you if they think you are talking to a scammer.
“Scammers know this, and that’s why they ask you to keep your conversations secret.
“Many will tell you not to disclose to anyone that you are talking to them.”
Netflix documentary The Tindler Swindler claims Simon Leviev ran a convincing double life and scammed multiple women online – something he has deniedCredit: simon.leviev.of/Instagram
Red flag #2: Spinning a sob story
Con artists will also try to get your sympathy, and know how to spin a good sob story.
Steve says: “Scammers will often tell you that they have lost loved ones — for example, to cancer or, more recently, Covid.
“They will also change their background story to mimic yours.
“Have you lost a loved one to cancer?
“Then it’s likely the scammer has too. This is one of many techniques scammers use to gain empathy.”
Red flag #3: Working overseas
Of course, not everyone with a job that involves travel is going to be a ‘Tinder Swindler’, but if other warning signs are also there it could be something to be wary of.
Steve says: “Scammers will often says they have a job that takes them overseas.
“Often as an engineer on an oil rig or a ship, a soldier serving abroad, or simply a businessperson who is about to close a deal that is worth millions of dollars.”
Dating profile warning signs
There are also warning signs to keep an eye out for when looking at someone’s dating profile.
Dating and relationship coach at Select Personal Introductions Alex Mellor-Brook says: “If everything looks perfect in their life, then it probably isn’t. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
“This obviously is a wide-scale phenomenon on social media, especially in the current times and if everything looks almost too perfect then you have to ask yourself, what are they trying to hide?”
- Over-emphasising one particular part of their life i.e. looks, wealth, celebrity status etc are other red flags. What are they trying to sell you?
- There should always be a mixture of good quality images. Photographs that are consistently poor quality, half a face, poor lighting, only ever in a group and hard to identify, could be an indication of cat-fishing.
- Ironically, not many ‘High net worth’ people show off their wealth at every given moment, especially on dating profiles, because it makes them an easy target for potential scammers.
- If you can locate the person on social media platforms, have a look at who they are liking/following. This could help give you an idea into what circle of people/friends they are constantly communicating with, giving you further insight into them as a person and if they are really someone whom you think you could get along well with.
- If a photo or bio looks more like an advert with product placements all over it, then be aware.
- If your gut tells you not to take it any further, swipe left.
Red flag #4: Financial Interest
Showing an interest in you is a good thing, but an interest in your wealth and material possessions is another warning sign.
Steve says: “Scammers are interested in your finances because they want to ensure you are a worthy target.
“For example, they will ask you about your career, how much money you earn, whether you own a house or car.
“The scammers quickly identify whether you’re a good target for them.
“When they realise that you’re a worthy target, they’ll try even harder to manipulate you into complying.
“For example, [in one sting] we received a lot of phone calls from one scammer after we told him we own a five-bedroom property in London and two fancy cars.”
Red flag #5: Demand for money
As was the case in The Tinder Swindler, if they have a dramatic story as to why they urgently need money, this is a huge red flag.
Steve says: “Scammers will make up elaborate stories for why they need money desperately.
“Often, they say that they can’t access their bank account from abroad or that all their money and bank cards have been stolen.
“Scammers also often use a sales technique called “foot in the door” where they ask for a relatively small amount of money in hopes of gaining larger sums at a later stage.”
Red flag #6: Full-on feelings
We all long to feel loved, and sadly, fraudsters know this.
Steve says: “It doesn’t take scammers long to tell you that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them, that you are the love of their life, and that they cannot live without you.
“This is often combined with a ridiculous number of love emojis.
“Unfortunately, once victims are this deep into the scam, financial loss and heartbreak will follow.”
They’ll often make huge declarations of love very early onCredit: Getty
Red flag #7: Pushy
Finally, if someone is overbearing and pushy, it could indicate they’re getting desperate – and they may quickly turn.
Steve adds: “If the scammers suspect that you are suspicious because you’re asking too many questions or you refuse to send money, they become pushy and try to push you emotionally.”
If you’re looking for love online, here are the seven things you need to put on your profile to get a date every time.
An emphasis on material possessions can be a signCredit: Alamy
Excessive interest in your job or wealth is another red flagCredit: Alamy