Fake sugar daddies are reportedly conning students out of thousands of pounds by posing as wealthy older men on internet dating websites.
Fraudsters have been posing as ‘sugar daddies’ online, striking up a relationship with their victim before tricking them into handing over their personal information, claiming it is so they can send them a gift or set up a credit card for them.
But the conmen instead use the information to access the victim’s online banking and spend their money, or even to set up accounts in their name, saddling the victim with thousands of pounds of debt, The Times reported.
NatWest has reportedly recorded 40 cases of such cases of fraud since August, but suggested that the real figure could be much higher as people are embarrassed to come forward.
A university student, known by the pseudonym Mary, told the publication that she met a fraudster called ‘Duncan’ on legitimate matchmaking website Seeking Arrangement, now known as Seeking.
The ‘sugar baby’ said she became physically ill after being conned into handing over her personal details, internet banking information and more than £2,000 to the fake ‘sugar daddy’.
A ‘sugar daddy’ is a wealthy older man who gives gifts or money on, generally, a young woman in exchange for their company on dates, with many apps and websites set up to matchmake such relationships.
A student, known by the pseudonym Mary, met a fraudster called Duncan on legitimate matchmaking website Seeking Arrangement, which was founded by Brandon Wade (pictured)
Seeking provides a matchmaking service for people looking for a wealthy ‘sugar daddy’ or ‘sugar momma’ to lavish them in gifts or give them an allowance in return for dates.
Seeking, which has more than 20million active members, claims to have signed up more than 500,000 British university students since American businessman Brandon Wade set up the website in 2006.
Speaking about her ordeal, Mary said she was looking for a relationship to ease university costs, saying Duncan offered her a £2,000 monthly allowance, shopping trips and unlimited access to his bank card in exchange for three or four dates a month.
The university student said they exchanged pictures after she confirmed her age and location, and she reverse-searched his image online to see if it appeared on any other sites, but thought he was ‘genuine’.
Just more than a week later, Duncan persuaded Mary to send him her personal details under the guise of setting up a card on his American Express account for her, while he also conned her into telling him her NatWest customer ID, claiming it was so he could ‘create a linked account’ to her existing student account.
But instead, the fraudster spent £2,000 on an Amex card he had set up in her name while she also used his bank card, believing he would pay off the debt.
Seeking claims to have signed up more than 500,000 UK university students since American businessman Brandon Wade (pictured with third wife Tanya) set up the website in 2006
Duncan also tricked Mary into transferring him £2,000 of her own money by creating a second NatWest bank account with an overdraft in her name.
By accessing her online banking, Duncan moved the overdraft from the new account into her student account to make it appear that he had paid her the money, before asking for the same cash to be transferred into a ‘cash ISA’ he had set up for her.
Mary said she was convinced that he was ‘rich’ and would not take her money, telling The Times: ‘He made it so complicated and then made me feel stupid when I didn’t understand it.’
Amex closed the account without asking for the debt to be repaid after she told the credit card company what had happened, as the account was opened fraudulently.
NatWest was initially unable to refund Mary because she gave Duncan access to her account and willingly transferred the money.
But as more victims came forward, the bank investigated and ruled that it was a highly sophisticated scam, refunding Mary the £2,000 she had lost.
Jason Costain, NatWest Head of Fraud Prevention said: ‘It is incredibly brave of ‘Mary’ to come forward and tell her story to help others. Fraud has reached out of control levels in the UK market and is having a devastating impact on people.
‘By talking about it more, we are helping to remove any stigma associated with these types of scams and helping to catch the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.
‘The bank is investing heavily in customer education to raise awareness of the dangers of becoming a money mule and we would encourage anyone who is offered money for the use of their account to report it immediately to the police.’
A spokesman for Seeking said the site continues to introduce safety features, including monitoring user reports to identify repeated scammers, to keep its members safe. The site has rules stating people cannot use the site to pay for sex.
Mary said she became ill after being conned into handing over her personal details, internet banking information and more than £2,000 to the fake ‘sugar daddy’, who she met on Seeking
A Financial Ombudsman Service spokesperson said: ‘It’s vital that people take extra care with their finances as unfortunately fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
‘If people feel they have not been treated fairly by their banks, the Financial Ombudsman is here to help.’
MailOnline has contacted Seeking, American Express, the Metropolitan Police and Action Fraud for comment.
Many students use ‘sugar’ daddy relationships to help them with university costs, as more than 1,000 students at Cambridge University alone were ‘sugar babies’ in 2019, according to Seeking.
Examples of sugar dating apps include My Sugar Daddy, Spoil, SDM, Elite Millionaire Singles and Seeking.
A biography on Seeking’s website says it began as a website where ‘sugar daddies and mommas’ could meet ‘sugar babies’, but has tried to ‘evolve’ as the world of dating has. The site now promotes itself said as a place where you can ‘just date up’.
It reads: ‘Seeking began as Seeking Arrangement, where ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘sugar mommas’ could meet ‘sugar babies’ by honestly sharing expectations for a relationship upfront. Countless harmonious relationships have been made since the website was created in 2006.
‘As the world and the concept of dating continue to evolve, so does Seeking. We are still committed to helping singles find honest relationships based on open communication, but we are much more than that.
‘Seeking is about identifying what drives us and how we can live our best lives with someone by our side.’