UK Finance Warns that romance fraud, otherwise known as online dating scams, has been on the rise in the past year thanks to lockdown.
While Valentine’s Day is mostly a day of love, roses and romantic dinners, it doesn’t go without its own risks. Now authorities are warning that those using dating apps should be on the lookout for love scammers.
What is a romance scam?
Romance scams occur when criminals trick vulnerable people seeking love into sending them money by building up their trust often over many months. UK Finance explained that these scammers often use compelling language and emotive situations like emergency medical care to prompt the victim into sending money or gifts.
These criminals also often claim to work overseas, maybe they are pretending to be in the military, or are posing as an international doctor. This makes it seem less suspicious if the victim is asked to send money into an overseas account.
UK Finance has revealed that there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance scams in 2020 compared to 2019. The UK’s Action Fraud revealed the scams resulted in residents losing a total of £68 million.
Now, organisations are warning people to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and advised those dating online to:
- Refrain from handing out money or giving another person access to your bank account
- Refrain from revealing documents such as licenses and passports
- Invest money in your online lover’s business or at their advice
- Don’t send or receive parcels on the other person’s behalf
- Be aware of fake profiles and execute reverse image searching when necessary
- Contact your bank if you believe you may have been victim to a scam
Romance fraud increasing due to lockdown
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, believes that lockdowns in the UK may have also contributed to the rise in romance scams. She stated:
The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives, implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen.
Figures from the Online Dating association also show that over 2.3 million Brits have turned to dating apps since the pandemic began, with 64% of those surveyed believing that online dating provided a lifeline for loneliness. UK Finance revealed:
While the internet can be a great way to meet people and form new relationships, the growth in popularity of online dating is giving criminals more opportunities to exploit and coerce people into parting with their money.
Many victims are also too ashamed to speak up when they have been victims of fraud. But, for those who do, there are still some actions that can be taken. Back in 2019, banks across the UK agreed upon a voluntary code which indicates that if someone ‘has taken reasonable care and has any element of vulnerability’ then they are more likely to receive a refund.