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Fraud accounts for more than a third (39 percent) of all crime according to figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for 2021. While the number of romance scams reported in 2022 dropped 17 pecent from the previous year, Nationwide Building Society is warning Britons to remain cautious after the amount lost to each scam has more than doubled from £4,720 in 2021 to £11,796 in 2022.
While scams are increasing year on year, the good news is the number of romance scams fell last year as people become more aware of what to look out for.
A romance scam is when fraudsters hide behind fake dating profiles to form relationships with unsuspecting victims online, gaining their trust and eventually conning them out of their personal information and money.
Although the number of romance scams dropped last year, the amount of money fraudsters are conning people out of more than doubled.
In fact, the average amount lost to romance scams accounts for almost two fifths of the average annual salary of £33,000 a year.
Anyone can fall victim to a romance scam but last year, male victims lost an average of £9,057 to such scams with women typically conned out of £14,803.
Rhiannon Philps, personal finance expert at NerdWallet said: “Although the number of romance scams being reported in 2022 declined, it’s evident that criminals continue to exploit online daters for financial gain.
“Scammers are experts at impersonation, which is why they target dating apps and social media to create false profiles and deceive someone feeling lonely or looking for love online.
“Romance scammers will often use an endearing tone and come up with a moving story to make their victims feel special and distracted from the fact they are being scammed.”
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Nerdwallet has shared some scam warning signs for people to look out for:
“Romance scammers will often impersonate someone else to keep their identity hidden and may only have access to a couple of images on their profile. There may also only be close up images of the individual, as opposed to numerous images from different angles like on a legitimate dating profile.”
Quick to profess love
“Romance scammers will often admit their love fairly quickly and express strong feelings in a short period of time as a way to exploit and manipulate victims emotionally.”
Asking for money
“It’s a big red flag if an online love interest asks for money before you’ve even met in person, and it’s likely they’re attempting to scam their victim. Romance scammers are skilled at making up believable stories as to why they need money from their victims. These include paying for travel, medical bills, debts, or other emergency payments.”
Urgent tone that requests immediate action
“Scammers will try to guilt trip individuals into transferring money, often prompting them to act instantly by making out it’s an emergency. This is to play on the emotions of the person receiving the message and encourage them to take action and respond. They also often get frustrated and defensive if victims refuse to help.”
Ask for sensitive information
“Scammers will often ask for some form of sensitive information, whether it’s financial information like bank details, or personal information such as full name, date of birth, or a home address.”
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, fraud experts are making sure people know the warning signs to look out for.
Kate Frankish, anti-fraud lead at Pay.UK said: “As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’re calling on people to be alert to the dangers of romance fraud.
“The crime has a devastating psychological and financial impact on its victims. Its scale and sophistication mean it’s not enough to try catch perpetrators after the act, we need to be proactive and implement preventative measures.
“Educating people about the warning signs is an important part of the solution. Dating apps have begun to launch safety alerts which teach users how to spot a potential scammer.”
She said the industry is taking huge steps in the right direction to show support for the fight against fraud.
Ms Frankish added: “Creating barriers and raising prompts at the key decision-making points is another effective way of preventing fraud.
“Tools, such as Confirmation of Payee, allow people to check if the name on the bank account matches the name they are given.
“This is helpful because it can help the victim take the pause, verify the information they are given and reconsider what they’re about to do.”
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