In 2018, Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, recorded that over £50m ($64m, €57m) was lost to romance fraud, with 4,555 reported cases. That is an average of £11,145 per victim and a 27% increase compared to 2017.
Romance fraud has found fertile grounds with the popularity of dating apps and websites.
Fraudsters often try to deceive people by using fake online profiles (known as catfishing) or appeal to people’s feelings to extort money, steal identities and bank account details.
‘Cash in lonely hearts’
Fauxmance scams are very popular especially among international crime syndicates, said Adam Levine, founder of CyberScout. Adding that they look for “cash in lonely hearts”.
“As cases of romance fraud increase each year, so too does the cost to victims, both emotionally and financially,” said Karen Baxter, head of the City of London police’s economic crime department.
“The emotional damage of falling victim to romance fraud can often be far more difficult to come to terms with. Heartless fraudsters are cruelly targeting vulnerable victims and exploiting those looking for love online.
“Together with our partners, we are urging people to spot the signs of romance fraud and to follow the ‘Date Safe’ advice this Valentine’s Day and in the future.”
Similarly, Bernadette Lawrie, financial abuse safeguarding officer for Sussex and Surrey police said: “Romance fraud accounts for 10% of all vulnerable victim fraud reports across our counties and is one of the most despicable crimes we see. The devastating and lasting impact it has on victims goes far beyond the financial loss.
“Victims are targeted and exploited when they are at their most vulnerable and the complex tactics and deceitful tales that lure the victims into parting with such huge sums of money are quite astonishing.”