The one and only love – or lie?
Don’t be fooled! How you can recognise romance scams on the internet and protect yourself against the digital marriage con.
Easy to fall in love with
Anyone looking for love nowadays will often turn to social networks to find suitable partners.
Fraudsters of both sexes exploit this trend for their own financial gain. They set up fake profiles which they then use to contact singles via Facebook or other social media platforms.
Victims are lured with the prospect of a Canada-based top manager, for example, or a US soldier deployed abroad.
It doesn’t take long before the fraudster begins to declare their undying love, and their chosen victim is expertly tricked into falling head over heels.
How romance scams work
1. Establish trust – manipulate behaviour:
Weeks and months are spent building up an apparent relationship via Skype, WhatsApp, etc. and deliberately manipulating the victim’s behaviour (this is also referred to as ‘catfishing’). The fraudster uses every trick in the psychological book to get their victim to trust them. Only then do they offer the prospect of an initial meeting in the real world.
2. Meeting never happens – something always comes up:
Just ahead of the (every) planned meeting, the fraudster will make the excuse that they’ve had an accident, fallen ill, or been mugged at the airport, for example. They ask their victim if they will cover treatment, travel or other costs, and arrange a money transfer or pay the amount they need into an account abroad. But be careful – anyone who transfers any money at all will just be prolonging the scam as the fraudster turns to a whole variety of new tricks to part them from their money.
3. Threats and deception:
The fraudsters have an arsenal of further scenarios to use if the victim doesn’t want to pay. They threaten to end the relationship, for example, or pretend to be a foreign ‘authority’ or ‘lawyer’ claiming to have caught the fraudster and their spoils, which can now be repaid in return for an ‘administration fee’.
How do you know you’re dealing with a romance scam?
Never met in person?
Don’t accept any friend requests on Facebook or other social media platforms from people who you don’t know in real life.
Pilot, single, always travelling?
Ask yourself how realistic it is that a well-off, attractive person from a distant country suddenly wants to get into a long-distance relationship with you, despite having no connection whatever to your life.
Suddenly head over heels?
Be suspicious if the other person begins to talk about being madly in love with you before the two of you have even met.
Break off contact immediately if the person asks you for money or any other goods.
Fallen prey to a romance scam?
Don’t panic – it can happen to anyone.
- Don’t send any more money or other items.
- Immediately break off contact entirely, and block the fraudster on all channels.
- Do not respond if you are contacted by any further apparent support agencies (such as Interpol, a foreign police force, victims’ legal support organisations, etc,) offering to help.
- Take all of the information that you have about the fraud (account data, telephone numbers, email addresses and profile names) to your local police station, and make a formal complaint.
- Talk to someone you trust about the incident, and get mental health support to help you process the incident.
- If you have any financial problems, please contact the debt advisory office in your canton.
- «Love Scam»: Das lohnende Betrugsgeschäft mit den hungrigen Herzen
- SRF – Liebesbetrüger im Netz – Zu toll, um wahr zu sein? Realitätscheck ist wichtig
- Kantonspolizei Zürich: Böses Erwachen statt grosser Liebe
- Schweizerische Kriminalprävention: Romance Scam
- ABC News – Meet the scammers breaking hearts and stealing billions online
- Selbsthilfegruppe Cyberkriminalität (inklusive Romance Scam)