What is it?

Romance fraud is when a criminal uses a fake profile to form a relationship with you.  

They gain your trust by appealing to your compassionate side, finding out personal information about you and creating fake stories so it seems like you have a lot in common. Criminals sometimes target widow and divorce pages.  

Once they have gained your trust, they start inventing reasons for needing money. These can be anything from an emergency situation, funds for travel to come and see you, asking you to take out a loan for them in your name, and many more. There will often be a promise of paying you back. 


  1. Someone declaring strong feelings for you after a few conversations.
  2. They suggest moving to a more private channel. If you’re worried, stay on the app. 
  3. They ask for money, needing them for emergencies or to visit you. 
  4. If they’re stories aren’t consistent with their profile. 
  5. They claim their camera isn’t working or come up with reasons not to speak or video call. 
  6. They ask you to take out a loan in your name. This means you are liable for the repayments. 
  7. They ask you to lie to your bank. This is a scam and it is illegal. 


  1. Never send anyone money you haven’t met, or have only met a handful of times. 
  2. Talk to friends or family about people you match with online.  
  3. Stop and think and ask yourself, is this person legit? Could it be a fake image? Can you find the image elsewhere? You can perform a reverse image search online to find out if a picture has been taken from somewhere or someone else.  
  4. If you think you might have been targeted in a romance scam, it’s ok to reach out to someone, you’re not alone. Often victims can feel embarrassed or ashamed about romance fraud but it’s so important that you tell you bank if you’ve lost money this way. They’re there to help. 
  5. Look out for friends or family who become secretive about their online relationships or get defensive when you ask why they haven’t met in person, they could be becoming a victim of romance fraud. 

Example of romance fraud

Emma* signed up to an online dating website where she met an aid worker on duty in Iraq called ‘John’. Soon after befriending Emma, John told her that he’d lost his wife and brother to cancer, a story which was very similar to her own. They spoke nearly every day and planned to meet in the UK. 

One day Emma received an email from John telling her that he’d been involved in an accident and that he needed an urgent operation. It was life or death. He told her he didn’t have the money to pay and asked if she could send him £5,000. Emma agreed and sent the money through a bank transfer. 

Soon after Emma had transferred the money, John told her he needed more to cover hospital bills and convinced Emma to send a further £5,000, assuring her that he’d pay her back when he arrived in the UK. 

John never contacted her again. His profile disappeared and he stopped replying to any of Emma’s messages or phone calls. 

*Case studies are based on insights from partners 

If think you might have been scammed, contact your bank immediately. You can also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101. 

Always remember

Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.

Research the person you’re talking to as profile photos may not be genuine. You can do this by uploading a picture of the person you’re talking to into your search engine to check that profile photos are not associated with another name. Performing a reverse image search can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else. Remember this might not always identify a criminal so you should continue to follow Take Five advice

Be alert to spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies in stories

Stay on the dating sites messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and meetings in person take place in a public place

Always consider the possibility of a scam

Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust

Speak to your family or friends to get advice

If you have visited a website you think is suspicious you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

Scam warning: Criminals may purport to be from Take Five, using our official branding on websites, social media posts, literature, on the phone or by text. Take Five doesn’t provide endorsement or approval for any products/services and would never call or text anyone.