Lloyds Bank has issued a warning in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day as ‘romance scams’ are at an all-time high. Research by Lloyds Bank has shown that this type of fraud has increased by more than 30% over the past year, with victims losing more than £8,000 on average.
Lloyds Bank has said that social media and dating apps have increasingly played into the hands of romance scammers in recent years, who can easily pretend to be someone else in their profile, using fake information and photos. The average amount lost by each victim was £8,234.
Romance scams often leave victims struggling with significant emotional trauma following a relationship failure that may have been cultivated over months or even years and also financial struggles as a result.
Liz Ziegler, Fraud Prevention Director at Lloyds Bank, said: “The convincing lies told by fraudsters mean that while romance scam victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam. As well as losing thousands of pounds they also have to deal with this emotional betrayal.
“While online dating should be a fun and empowering experience, it’s vital that people can spot the warning signs, to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe.
“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.”
Lloyds Bank issued information on what type of people are being targeted most by these. Last year, men were slightly more likely than women to fall victim to a romance scam, making up around 53% of all cases. However, that was up considerably from 2021, when they accounted for only 39% of cases.
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.
Cases were reported right across the UK, but the south east of England was a particular hot spot, as relative to population size, the number of victims was around 15% higher than the national average.
How does a typical romance scam work?
- Scammers will usually target victims on social media platforms, particularly Facebook, or dating apps, such as Tinder. But they might quickly try to move the conversation onto another private messaging platform, like WhatsApp.
- Typically they will come across as very caring and attentive, messaging back and forth – sometimes over months – to build trust and give the impression that the relationship is genuine.
- The fraudster may have scoured social profiles to help persuade their victim that they are the perfect match based on shared interests or personal circumstances. Often they will claim to be living or working abroad to explain why they can’t meet in person. They might also invent reasons why they can’t turn their camera on during calls.
- Eventually, they will start to tell stories about family or legal issues, business problems or medical bills. They might appear reluctant to accept any help at first, but this is all part of the con.
- Amounts could be small, to begin with, but over time they convince their victim to send more and more money.
Five warnings signs of a possible romance scam:
- Sudden online romance with someone who seems a perfect match
- Profile pictures that appear professional or ‘model-like’
- Quickly moving the conversation to a different platform or app
- Reluctance to appear on camera or meet in person
- Requests for financial support, whatever the story or amounts