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06-Sep-2017 00:24

If you’re suspicious, turn to Google: search their name and “dating scam” or do a Google image search to see whether they’ve taken someone else’s picture or one that’s easily available online.

If you find the picture is a fake, report the profile to the dating site immediately.

And a lot of the time, you’re not just talking to one person behind each profile - you could be exchanging messages with a circle of fraudsters acting together, according to KIS Finance.

Serious fraudsters sometimes even create further fake profiles and use them to be rude to you, all to make the main fake profile seem more desirable.

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.

So what can you do to avoid being a victim of an online dating scam?

Con artists are increasingly creating fake online profiles and tricking people on dating sites into handing over often large sums of money.

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.

One of the most common techniques is to build up trust with the person by messaging for weeks or even months before suddenly having an emergency - the fake person being mugged but their daughter needing urgent surgery, for example - and asking for money.

But then they suddenly need money for rent too, then food, then medical fees, and it can quickly escalate.It was only when her money transfer was blocked due to a security alert around the man’s name that she realised something was wrong.