Ahead of Valentine’s Day, UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is warning people to stay alert to criminals posing as an online love interest. Money lost to romance fraud remains high, with a worrying £16.6 million stolen through these scams in the first half of 2022.
A survey conducted by UK Finance showed that of those who started a romantic relationship online in the last 12 months, just under half (47 per cent) categorically state that they need to meet their date in person to trust that they are who they say they are.
In a romance scam, criminals use a fake profile to target their victim and build a relationship. Once the criminal has gained their victim’s trust, they will then ask the person for money. Almost a third (29 per cent) of people who had met someone online in the last 12 months said that they had been asked to give or lend money to someone they hadn’t met in person.
The findings showed that over half of those asked to give or lend money (51 per cent) subsequently agreed to do so. Almost half of them (48 per cent) sent between £100 and £1000, with a further eight per cent sending over £1000.
In the average romance scam case, the victim is tricked into making around eight payments. These are generally smaller sums over a long period to make it appear more convincing to the victim. The survey findings also highlighted that people are often given different reasons as to why the money is needed, with the three most common being: to pay for an emergency (52 per cent); to pay for the person’s travel to meet them (33 per cent); and, to pay one of their bills (32 per cent).
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:
“Losing money to fraud is both emotionally and financially damaging for victims, even more so when you thought it was someone you could trust. Unfortunately, heartless criminals are taking advantage of people looking for love.
“We would urge everyone to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and avoid sending money to someone you have never met in person. If you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, contact your bank immediately.”
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the Take Five to Stop Fraud provides advice on how to stay safe from romance scams when dating online:
- Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.
- Speak to your family or friends to get advice and share experiences.
- Profile photos may not be genuine, so you should make sure to do your research first. You can do this by uploading a picture of the person you’re talking to into your search engine to check that profile photos are not associated with another name. Performing a reverse image search can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else.
- Stay on the dating sites messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and ensure meetings in person take place in a public place. Online dating platforms have moderation and reporting processes in place to protect daters and remove scammers.
- Contact your bank straight away if you think you may have fallen victim to a romance scam, notify Action Fraud and let the platform on which you met the scammer know about the incident.
Notes to Editors
UK Finance 2022 Half Year Fraud update
For more information visit https://www.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/advice/general-advice/romance-scam/
Opinium interviewed 2,000 UK adults in an online survey from 24 January to 27 January 2023. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative.