They can be someone we’ve matched with on a dating site; someone who has contacted us out of the blue by email; or someone we have met in person. They may ask us to keep the relationship or communication a secret from our friends and family.
Romance and companionship scammers play with people’s emotions, often by showering them with affection (‘love bombing’) to build trust. They may try to make you feel guilty when you don’t do things their way and play on your emotions. They might ask for sums of money or gifts, or request that you pay for things for them.
Often, they will tell you that some traumatic event has happened to them, and they need money to resolve the situation. They may even ask you to send them money to purchase travel tickets to visit you.
Romance and companionship scammers often have the same objectives as other types of fraudsters:
- To steal our money
- To obtain our personal and financial information to use to perpetrate further scams against us
- To sell any information they obtain to other scammers
Romance and companionship scams often involve an element of abuse / harm, with the target not always aware of what is going on, even when it is happening right in front of them.
What are the signs of financial abuse/harm?
According to Age UK, there are various signs of financial abuse and harm that could be tell-tale giveaways that something isn’t right. These do not only apply to elderly people, but anyone who is the target of a romance or companionship scam.
These signs include –
- Signatures on cheques and documents that do not resemble the person’s signature or signed when the person cannot write.
- Sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the person.
- The inclusion of additional names on a person’s bank account.
- Abrupt changes to or the sudden establishment of wills.
- The sudden appearance of previously absent relatives claiming their rights to a person’s affairs or possessions.
- Someone moving into an person’s house and living rent free, without agreement or under duress.
- The unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.
- Misuse of power of attorney, deputyship, appointee ship or other legal authority.
- Numerous unpaid bills, or overdue rent, when someone else is supposed to be paying the bills.
- Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, appropriate clothing, that the person should be able to afford.
- The unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions such as art, silverware, or jewellery.
- Deliberate isolation of a person from friends and family, resulting in the caregiver alone having total control.
At consumeradvice.scot, we believe that it is important to understand the various types of scams out there, and romance and companionship scams relying on emotional and psychological buy-in, are probably one of the more concerning types of scam.
Here are our top tips to help identify the scammers and give them a wide berth –
- Avoid revealing too many personal details too early into the conversation and never share bank details –if someone asks for money from you, this should ring warning bells. Many of these scammers depend on their target supplying enough information for them to be able to help themselves.
- Check profile pictures and verify– if someone is unwilling to have a conversation on the telephone, by facetime, skype or video call, chances are they aren’t who they say they are. Many dating sites ‘verify’ user profiles to provide added peace of mind.
- Check in on relatives – if someone seems withdrawn and secretive, especially in relation to money and their latest love interest, make sure they are OK. Let them know you are there for them if they need you.
- Be aware of ‘love bombing’ – many scammers shower affection very early and use this as a tool to extort money and gain trust. Be wary of sweeping statements and clichés.
- Remember – If it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
Scottish #ScamWatch Fortnight 2022 is in full swing, sharing information on different types of scams, and how we can avoid and report them to stop others being caught out. You can follow the campaign by following #ScamWatch or by visiting the official #ScamWatch page.
More information / Reporting Scams
If you would like more advice on scams or would like to report a scam you have identified, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. Scottish citizens can report suspected scams and suspicious activity at scamwatch.scot. For more information on scams and how they can be avoided, you can visit the ‘Knowledge Centre’ at consumeradvice.scot