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10 Feb 2016

Fake and suspicious profiles rife on dating sites

One in seven admit sending money to someone met online

More than half of online dating app and website users believe they've seen a fake profile with two in five having been approached by someone asking for money.

The Which? survey of 1,000 users of online dating services also found that one in seven admitted to sending money to someone who had asked for it.

Of those who sent money, men were twice as likely to have parted with cash when asked to than women.

Usage of dating website and apps is on the rise, which means that potential for fraud is also rising.

Online dating fraud has cost victims £27 million collectively over the last year, according to police figures..Use our advice to spot fake online dating profiles and to protect yourself when using dating sites and apps.

Some dating services riskier than others

Of the dating sites used by those surveyed, users of Lovestruck.com were more likely to be asked for cash with more than a third reporting they'd been approached for money while using the site.

Almost three in ten users of Dating Direct and Elite Singles also reported that they'd been approached for money while on these sites.

Fake profiles rife on sites and apps

The Which? survey also found that around six in ten people had seen what they believed to be a fake profile.

Tinder was revealed to be the dating app where most people thought they had encountered a fake profile, closely followed by Plenty of Fish and Lovestruck.com.

But only three in ten said they reported fake profiles when they saw one.

Which? director of campaigns Alex Neill said: 'It's important for people to be vigilant when using dating sites or apps and ensure they are not revealing personal data that then could be used by scammers.

'We've found most dating sites are quick to act on reports of fake profiles and scam attempts, so we encourage anyone who sees a fake profile or is approached by a suspected scammer to report it.'

'I lost £4,000 to a dating scam'

During this investigation, Which? heard from Deborah*, who reported that she'd lost £4,000 to a dating scam last year in what she described as a 'horrid situation' that caused considerable distress.

Deborah met Steven while using Encounters Dating. He presented himself as a business consultant working in the oil industry who was often out of the country.

After a few weeks of regularly speaking through online messaging, email and a couple of telephone calls, they arranged to meet.

A matter of hours before the couple were due to meet face to face for the first time, Steven messaged Deborah to say he was out of the country and in desperate need of cash to fulfil a business contract.

The persistence of dating scammers

Deborah initially refused to send money, insisting that Steven must know someone else who could help.Steven pushed harder, becoming frantic and desperate saying she was the only one who could.

Despite her misgivings, Deborah succumbed to the pleas of a man with whom she believed she shared a mutual affection and transferred the funds to Steven.

Shortly after making the transfer, Deborah confided her concerns in a friend who warned her this could be a scam. Despite making several attempts to stop the payment, it went through.

Deborah's bank said it had no reason to stop the payment - she had authorised it.

After reporting the scam to the dating site, the offending profile was immediately removed, but Deborah was still left £4,000 out of pocket.

Top tips on dating apps and websites

Users of online dating websites need to be alert to the potential for fraudulent activity. To guard yourself against being scammed,follow our tips:

  • Money Don't send money to anyone you meet through an online dating website, no matter how convincing they may appear to be
  • Unique email Always create and use a unique email address that is different to your personal or professional addresses when setting up a profile
  • Personal details Don't share personal details such as your mother's maiden name or pet's name which could be used to try to access financial information
  • Real name Don't include your last name, email or home address or any identifying information in your profile

*Please note that names and some minor details have been changed to preserve anonymity.

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