Don’t be a Valentine victim – beware romance fraud
The number of people falling victim to romance scams increased by a fifth (22%) in 2023, compared to 2022
If you’ve recently embarked on a new relationship with someone you met online, or are considering dipping a toe into the world of internet dating, be on your guard against romance fraud.
This type of fraud involves scammers luring in unsuspecting targets they’ve met online, often ‘love bombing’ them with messages and calls to gain their trust. Once the relationship starts to progress, they will then ask for money, typically claiming they need it to cover medical costs, or to pay for travel tickets to meet up.
The number of people falling victim to romance scams increased by a fifth (22%) in 2023, compared to 2022, according to the latest data from Lloyds Bank, with an average of £6,937 stolen per victim. The bank says that people aged between 55 and 64 most likely to fall victim to romance fraud. Those aged between 65 and 74 typically lose the most money, however, giving romance scammers an average £13,123, the highest amount of any age group.
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank said: “Social media and online dating apps are rife with fake profiles, and it can be hard to tell who is genuine. Remember that no good relationship starts off by sending money to someone you haven't met and this should be a big red flag.
“As soon as someone you’re talking to starts asking for money, step back from the situation and never hand anything over. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”
More like this
Metro Bank said it has recorded an even bigger surge in online fraud casereporting a more than 50% increase in romance scams over the past year alone.
Baz Thompson, Metro Bank’s Head of Fraud & Investigations, said. “We had a customer who originally lost over £56,000 just by initially responding to a random email. The email progressed into a telephone relationship over the course of several month with a lady scammer. He never met the lady, video calls always failed – all he had was a photo.
“The first payment request was just for a few hundred pounds – he was happy to help as she seemed in genuine need. By the time he started to get suspicious, he had made over 80 payments in less than six months and had lost nearly £57,000. We were able to help him recover more than £31,000 but the loss was still significant.”
How to protect yourself
When online dating always be wary of any profile pictures that look too good to be true, or like they might have been AI-generated. If in doubt, ask the person you’re talking to if they will send you another photo or two.
Warning bells should ring if they make endless excuses as to why they can’t meet up in person, and even more so if they request any money, however well you think you know them.
If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to speak to a friend and get their opinion as to whether the person you’re dealing with could be a scammer. Finally, don’t share too much information about yourself and if you think you have falling victim to a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to ActionFraud which is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, either via its website or by calling 0300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm).