Online dating is a global and booming industry. Everyone has heard of dating scams in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Malaysia, Romania, Philippines, Russia and the Ukraine, and chances are it couldn’t happen to you, right? Especially if you’re in the U.K. or U.S. and just mingling with people online in your own country, right? Wrong! Dating scams in the U.K. have reached record levels and despite constant warnings from the media British government, the statistics keep getting worse. Brits tend to let their guard down online when in fact they should be more cautious than ever. Just because someone is in the U.K. or claims to be in the U.K. does not mean your safe. Online criminals can hide anywhere.
Scamming is indeed greater in Africa and Eastern Europe than it is in the U.K., although there are a couple of ways in which the country gets affected. The truth is, many criminal groups operating in Nigeria and Russia, for example, now have criminal accomplices working in the U.K. Thanks to uncontrolled immigration and borders, many criminals from the poorest of countries now are set up near you!
First of all, crooks know how to use Internet. Many of the online profiles that you will find out there are fake, but it´s hard to know which. Criminals use the identities, pictures and information of real people living in the U.K. Furthermore, they use U.K. IP addresses through proxy servers to hide their real locations. Their stories are very good and believable. Some say they had to travel for work purposes, a new project, or to take care of a relative who is sick. Others say they are still in London, however they need your help or your information. Others may never ask for anything, but simply use your trust and emails to hack into your computer, steal your personal data, identity and drain your bank accounts.
The stories and tactics used vary, but if you find yourself uneasy or think you see some red flags, do not hesitate. Experts say far too many victims consult a private investigator after the damage is done, when in fact you should consider a proper dating background check at the beginning of a relationship. If you have been speaking to someone for months and you really like the person, you need to verify.
An interesting phenomenon that has affected the online dating scam incidence in the U.K. is immigration. The migration of people from poor countries -where they had learned the online scamming techniques- has spread the problem globally, and the U.K. is certainly not immune from fraud. The online scamming business is very profitable, which is why it has expanded so much, and the chances for these people to get caught, arrested and prosecuted are little and require of lengthy investigations. However, law enforcement agencies do get some breaks in some cases. Recently five men and a women were charged in connection with an alleged online dating scam involving significant amounts of money.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that dating scams increased by 27 percent between 2012 and 2013. In the U.K victims are encouraged to report crimes to Action Fraud, which acts as a central point of contact for help with financially-motivated internet crimes.
Here are some useful tips from Action Fraud to identify the red flags:
Are you a victim of dating fraud?
Remember that scammers look for anything that could be useful, so their priority might be your money, but your personal information can be just as good because they can use it to deceive someone else, or steal your identity, or even blackmail you. When you´re dating online, be very selfish! The less you share, the safer you are in this world, both online and off line. If after background check you find out that your date is legit and someone who can be trusted, only then should you consider meeting in person!
When in doubt, contact a reputable private investigator for an objective opinion and discuss your options on how to stay safe, and be sure the person you’re communicating with is the real thing.
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