The Advice Direct Scotland Romance and Companionship Scams campaign (ROMCOM) will look at the tactics employed by scammers who exploit situations of isolation and loneliness of their targets for personal gain.
This is not only from a romantic perspective, but we will also look at other methods employed, including scams perpetrated by family members, and fraudsters posing as them (e.g., WhatsApp scams, etc), as well as bank transfer fraud, ‘lovebombing’, blackmail, and other manipulation techniques that people closer to the scam may misunderstand or misinterpret as displays of affection.
Additionally, the campaign will signpost to sources of support in Scotland, such as befriending services and mental health support networks.
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!
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. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.