Around 2.5m people in the UK have fallen victim to romance fraud, according to research by cybersecurity company NordVPN, losing an average of £4,622 each, while phishing fraud victims typically handed over £2,851 each.


Marijus Briedis, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN said: “When dipping their toes into the dating world millions of Brits prefer to do so online, often because it can feel safer and less nerve-wracking breaking the ice through an app or website than doing so in person.

“Yet our research shows that scammers are a growing threat on dating sites and apps — and primed to take advantage of users searching for love.”

Separate research carried out by Lloyds Bank found that those aged between 65 and 74 were the most likely to be tricked into sending money to a fraudster masquerading as a romantic partner, with the number of cases amongst this age group rising by almost 75% year-on-year. The average amount they lost was just over £12,000.

How romance scams work – and how to spot the warning signs

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Romance scams can have both a huge financial and emotional impact, with fraudsters often taking months to develop a relationship with their victims. Once they know their victim trusts them, they then ask for financial help. They may claim the money will be used to fund travel costs to come and visit, or to help pay for emergency medical treatment. Alternatively, they may claim that they’ve found a brilliant investment opportunity that they want to share with you.

Liz Ziegler, Fraud Prevention Director at Lloyds Bank, said: “If you’ve started an online relationship and the discussion turns to money – regardless of the reason or the amounts involved – then alarm bells should be ringing.

“Never send money to people you’ve never met in person, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”

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If you’re using online dating services to find love, be very careful about how much information you disclose about yourself. Fraudsters will be keen to know about your financial situation and will often ask lots of personal questions.

They may also be unwilling to disclose much information about themselves, or may claim they are based overseas so that it’s difficult for you to meet them in person.

Mr Briedis said: “Be wary of sharing any personal information with new matches and take your time to make sure they have been verified by the site. Most online scammers are trying to deceive multiple users at once so will be looking to move the conversation on quickly. Stay patient and if they soon mention money or suggest visiting another site or messaging platform that’s a definite red flag.”

If you think you’ve fallen victim to a romance fraud, you should let the national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud and your bank know immediately.


Jamie Day, head of operational risk at Arbuthnot Latham said: said: “It is very important to understand the tricks that criminals use in these scenarios; do not be pressured into doing anything you are not comfortable with. If you are concerned you have been a victim of a romance scam, it is crucial to contact your bank as soon as possible.”

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