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Nancy*, a 47-year-old single mother from North Yorkshire was conned out of over £350,000 that way: “I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine,” she explained to the BBC.
Nancy is now facing bankruptcy, and although her case is extreme, the average victim of online dating fraud loses £10,000 according to Action Fraud.
Around 7.8 million UK adults used online dating sites in 2016, up from just 100,000 in 2000.
But just as dating app users are at an all-time high, so is the number of people becoming victims of online dating fraud.
Jane*, a middle-aged woman from Warwickshire, had a lucky escape a few years ago when she very nearly handed over a sizeable sum of money to an online scammer who did in fact claim to be an engineer.
Her interest was initially piqued when he seemed to have a similar background and heritage to her and they chatted for almost two months, often exchanging messages for at least two hours an evening.
Wicker says the best course of action is to be vigilant for suspicious text messages, just like you should watch out for strange emails.
One tip: Look out for text messages from phone numbers that clearly appear fake or suspicious.
Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to block smishing messages entirely, says Steve Wicker, a computer engineering professor at Cornell University.“A lot of the online dating fraudsters we know are abroad.They're in West Africa, Eastern Europe and it's very difficult for British law enforcement to take action against them in those jurisdictions,” Steve Profitt, Deputy Head of Action Fraud explains.“That’s one of the main ways they try to trick you,” says Hong. There’s something that needs your attention right now.” Hong says you should make sure to use different passwords for everything from your bank’s website and social media apps to your email account.Two-factor authentication and password managers like Dashlane and 1Password can also be useful.