EXCLUSIVE: There’s A New Kind Of Online Dating Scam – And It Affects You

Apparently increasing numbers of men are scamming money from women they've met online - and it's really scary

We’ve all heard of catfishing – when somebody pretends to be somebody that they’re not over the internet, lures in an unsuspecting victim and invariably breaks their heart (/appears on an MTV reality TV series). But while we’re used to taking precautions against that (googling potential dates’ details, meeting up with potential dates as soon as possible, and keeping your wits about you at all times), there’s a new trend in fake dating. And it’s far harder to spot.

According to Laura Lyons, the founder of Are They Safe (a private investigations service providing background checks), increasing numbers of men across the country are scamming their dates out of money – cloning their card details and gaining access to their online accounts.

‘In the last week, we’ve had about 35 calls from women who have had money stolen from them by the men that they’re supposedly dating,’ she tells marie claire. ‘That’s a phenomenal amount, and it’s not something that we usually come across.

‘Many of these women have started relationships with these men – even dating them for up to six months at a time – before realising that their money is going missing, or that they’re being asked to lend cash to a partner who then disappears and never gives it back.

‘In many cases, the men will have started a dating profile using a real photo of themselves – but will have given a fake name and location,’ she adds. ‘However, the name will generally belong to somebody who does live in that location, but who doesn’t have social media, or who has very stringent privacy settings. So when you google it, you’ll be able to see that that person seems to exist in that town – and then when he turns up, he’ll look like his photo. Meaning that you trust he is who he says he is. It’s really scary.’

And while Laura believes the sudden spike in calls could be because Christmas is on the horizon and many people need to make money fast, she’s keen to add that another factor could be that many online dating sites still aren’t doing enough to verify their users.

‘As it stands, it’s very hard to tell if somebody is who they say they are on the internet,’ she says, advising that you keep your bank details protected, and never lend money to anyone who you don’t know – even if they seem trustworthy. ‘Until you’re absolutely sure, you absolutely need to protect yourself.’

If you’re worried about a partner’s identity, contact Are They Safe, or speak to the police on 101 – the non-emergency phoneline.

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