What is a romance scam?

Have you ever sent money to someone you met online? Perhaps you wanted to help them after they ran into financial difficulty? Or maybe they offered you an investment opportunity that you didn’t want to turn down? If you’ve been encouraged to make a bank transfer to someone you’ve only spoken to online, then you might have been targeted by a romance scammer.

So, what is a romance scam? Romance scams are often referred to as authorised push payment (APP) or bank transfer scams. This is because the victim knowingly transfers the money because they’ve grown to trust the individual that they’ve formed an online friendship or relationship with. Unfortunately for many, they have been targeting by romance scammers, using fake profiles to deceive people into handing over their hard-earned cash.

What are the most common types of romance scams?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but we’ve acted for clients who have been targeted by scammers who say they are working in occupations whereby it’s more difficult to meet in person e.g.:

  • They work in the armed forces / military
  • They work offshore on an oil rig
  • They work as a nurse or doctor for an overseas charity
  • They’re a businessman or woman trading internationally
  • They live abroad

These types of scammers will often create plausible stories to gain sympathy and financial support from their unsuspecting victims e.g.:

  • They’re stuck overseas and require money for a visa, plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • They’ve become ill and require funds for surgery or other medical expenses
  • They’re importing / exporting products and require cash for customs fees etc.
  • They’re in trouble and need help paying off debts
  • They have an investment or business opportunity for you

In these types of cases scammers typically ask victims to wire them money via bank transfer or request that they purchase gift cards from retailers like Amazon, Google Play or iTunes (asking the victims to send images of the code that they can then use to make purchases). They do this because they can get the cash quickly and anonymously.

How do romance scammers typically target their victims?

Most people, especially those who have felt isolated during the pandemic, have turned to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet people. But instead of finding romance, many have been approached by scammers trying to convince them into sending them money.

These romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites such as Tinder or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, often investing a lot a time gaining their victims trust before making up a story and then asking for money.

What can I do to protect myself from romance scammers?

CEL Solicitors’ Top Tips to avoid romance scams are:

  • If you think you’re being targeted by a romance scammer then end contact with them immediately.
  • If you’re not sure if they’re a romance scammer then do some research e.g. do a reverse image search to see if their pictures are associated with any other profiles.
  • Research the story they’ve given you e.g. ‘army scammer’ or ‘oil rig scammer’ to see if anyone else has had a similar experience.
  • Confide in someone you trust and pay attention if they are worried about your new online friendship / relationship.
  • Finally, never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person. If the relationship is genuine then contact won’t depend on what financial support you can offer.

Can I get my money back from a romance scam?

If you’re among those people who have been targeted by a romance scammer then you are not alone. Romance scams are very common, more so during the pandemic when many people have felt lonely and isolated during lockdown. So, if you have sent money to someone that you now believe is a catfish then we can help you.

We understand that this type of scam is among the most devastating as many people feel hurt and even ashamed when they realise they have been the victim of a romance scam. However, we are experts in fraud recovery and can help you get your money back, so you should never feel embarrassed about getting in touch.

What will it cost me to make a romance scam claim?

We work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis so if you’re unsuccessful you won’t have to pay anything upfront. However, if we are successful in getting your money back, we deduct a success fee, capped at 25% plus VAT of anything we recover on your behalf. However, we can also claim damages for stress, inconvenience and interest at 8% from the date you lost your money. So, if we’re able to secure compensation in addition to your money back you can often get close to 100% of the money that you lost.

How do I know you are genuine?

To give you comfort, CEL Solicitors is a trading name of Cheshire Estates and Legal Limited (company number: 10370954). We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number: 633955). To check us out, you can visit the Law Society’s website and look us up using their ‘Find a Solicitor’ tool, which is a free service for anyone looking for information about organisations or people providing legal services in England and Wales that are regulated by the SRA.

What else can I do to protect myself and others from scammers?

First and foremost, if you ever feel threatened by someone who is pressuring you to send them money then call the police immediately by dialling 999. If you don’t believe you’re in danger, but you’re worried you are being or have very recently been scammed, then contact the police by dialling 101.

If you’ve already transferred money and are subsequently worried you’ve fallen victim to a romance scam then you should report it. In order to report it, write down exactly what’s happened including: how you were targeted (e.g. Tinder scam, eHarmony scam, Elite Singles scam etc.); who you thought you were in contact with (providing as much detail about their profile as possible); what contact details you have for them (e.g. their dating profile, social media account, email address, phone number etc.); what might have made you vulnerable (e.g. your personal circumstances) and what has made you suspicious this person isn’t real (e.g. you lost contact with them after sending them money) and finally, how you paid them (the bank accounts you transferred the money from and to).

Once you’ve gathered the key information you should notify your bank right away. Hopefully they can stop any pending payments or help recover the funds for you. However, it’s crucial that you tell them as soon as possible to have the best chance of recovering the money yourself. Also, notify Action Fraud (the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime). Action Fraud works alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), who can investigate the scam for you.

Finally, if you hit a brick wall when it comes to recovering your money, then get in touch with us. CEL Solicitors are experts in fraud recovery. We offer a complete fraud and scam recovery service, which you can read more about here. If you’re among those people who’ve been the victim of a romance scam, then there are steps we can take to recover your money so get in touch today.

How can I get in touch to start my romance scam claim?

You can call us on 0808 273 0900 or start your claim online. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form and a member of our scam recovery team will be in touch. We offer free initial, no obligation advice so you have nothing to lose by getting in touch. Our specially trained advisors have dealt with a number of romance scams so never be embarrassed to speak out and seek help.

Why choose CEL Solicitors?

Our solicitors understand that our clients need practical solutions. Our commercially minded team have worked for some of the biggest names in financial services. We offer a range of specialist services tailored to support both consumers and businesses with fraud or scams in relation to banking and finance transactions.

Our experienced team is routinely involved in fraud and scam detection, prevention as well as recovery and finance litigation. We are experts in fraud and scams, including cross-border finance transactions, supporting our UK clients with domestic and international funds recovery.