Love is in the air – on Valentine’s Day, UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is warning people to stay alert to online romance fraud, which has caused losses of £16.6 million in the first half of 2022
A survey conducted by UK Finance, within the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, has found that romance scammers have defrauded victims out of £16.6 million in the first half of 2022.
As technologies facilitate romantic encounters today, criminals often use fake profiles on dating sites or social media to target their victims. The study found that 29% of people who met someone online within the last 12 months were asked to give or lend money to their “love match” who they hadn’t met in person.
Furthermore, over half of those asked to give or lend money (51%) subsequently agreed to that. Almost half of those people (48%) sent their online acquaintances between £100 and £1000, while a further 8% sent over £1000.
According to statistics, in the average romance scam case, the criminal tricks the victim into making around eight payments. Generally, they start with smaller sums to be more convincing. Sometimes, the victims are even tricked to become “money mules” and launder money for the criminal.
The survey also highlighted the three most common reasons scammers use as a pretence to ask for money. These are: to pay for an emergency (52%); to pay for travel expenses in case of a personal meeting (33%); and to pay one of their bills (32%).
Therefore, Take Five to Stop Fraud advises all those dating online to take the next precautions:
- Beware of any money requests from people you have never met in person
- Discuss such requests with your family or friends before acting
- Check the profile photos of a new acquaintance via the search engine to check they are not associated with another name or taken from free image repositories
- Communicate via the dating site’s messaging service until you have met in person. Online dating platforms have moderation and reporting policies to protect daters and remove scammers.
- Notify your bank and the platform on which you met the scammer about the romance scam incident.