Articles

Affairs of the heart

6 minutes

This is Jack’s story. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

Scams can appear in all sorts of guises. From phone calls and text messages to emails and letters. There are so many ways fraudsters can prey on the vulnerable and unsuspecting. And those that are looking for love are no exception.

We’d like to share with you what happened to Jack who got caught up in a romance scam.

The story

Jack contacted LV= to request a lump sum from his pension fund. A few days later he called again to ask to completely surrender his pension policy. When we spoke to him he explained why he needed the money: he had met a new partner online and they had plans for a bright future together. His new partner had told Jack that they needed money to pay for legal fees connected with an inheritance. His partner lived in Ghana and had told him that her parents had passed away and she was the sole carer for her grandmother.

 

The situation triggered alarm bells. Jack lived alone and said that he’d only known his partner for a few weeks, and they were yet to meet in person. He was excited about the future they had mapped out together.

 

Jack did have doubts at first, with the speed things were progressing. They talked all the time by phone, email, social media and online chat throughout the day. Jack had been furloughed due to Covid-19, and had few friends to talk to. He was ready to transfer his life savings to secure a future together. This case was referred to our Financial Crime team who reviewed the situation and found that Jack was a target of a romance scam.

 

We work closely with external agencies such as local authorities and law enforcement to ensure we do all we can to safeguard our members and customers, and their money. Thankfully on this occasion we were able to stop Jack from losing his money. With support from community police, we were able to put them in touch with Jack so they could talk to him face-to-face.

What is a romance scam?

This is when you think you’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app, but the other person is using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. They’re using the site to gain your trust and ask you for money or enough personal information to steal your identity.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Avoid giving away too many personal details when dating online. Revealing your full name, date of birth and home address may lead to your identity being stolen.
  • Never send or receive money or give away your bank details to someone you’ve only met online, no matter how much you trust them or believe their story.
  • Pick a reputable dating website and use the site’s messaging service. Fraudsters want to quickly switch to social media or texting so there’s no evidence of them asking you for money.

How does it happen?

  • The majority of accounts on dating websites are genuine people looking for love. But fraudsters may try to contact you by making fake profiles, getting in touch and building what feels like a loving relationship.
  • Once a fraudster using a fake dating profile is confident that they’ve won your trust, they will tell you about an inheritance or a problem they’re experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money.
  • They may have arranged to visit you, but need money to pay for the flight or legal documents. They may tell you everything has been booked but their ticket has been stolen, and you need to send money quickly to get them on the next flight or assist with legal fees.
  • Alternatively they may prey on your sympathies, telling you a family member, or someone else they are responsible for, is ill and they need money for medical treatment.
  • Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back and invent new reasons to ask for more.

How to report to ActionFraud

It can feel embarrassing to be tricked into thinking you’ve formed a relationship online, but you can tell ActionFraud in confidence. Many people choose to stay silent and this can make the problem much worse. Reporting fraud will also help protect others. You can report fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.

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