Published On: Mon, Feb 13th, 2023

Don’t fall for a romance scammer this Valentine’s | Personal Finance | Finance

The Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign has warned lonely hearts hoping for Valentine’s Day romance to beware of criminals posing as love interests.

Scammers may take months building up a rapport with targets and may ask for multiple payments, claiming to be on charity work or in need of cash for an operation, a business investment – or even for a flight to meet up. With the cost-of-living crisis, other fraudsters pretend they need help to pay bills.

They even set up fake profiles using photos of innocent people.

Finance sector trade body UK Finance said the sum lost to romance fraud is high, with £16.6million stolen via such scams in the first half of last year.

Its Opinium survey of 2,000 people last month found 51 percent of those asked for money agreed – and eight percent sent more than £1,000. Of those who had begun an online relationship online in the past year, 47 percent said they would need to meet their date in person in order to trust them.

In a typical romance scam, victims are conned into eight payments.

UK Finance’s poll also revealed the three most common lies behind pleas for money were for an emergency, for travel to meet the victim and for bills.

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.

“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.”

Campaign tips for safe dating online include:

Be wary of requests for money from someone you have never met.

Ask family and friends for advice and experiences.

Research profile photos to ensure they are not linked to another name, using a reverse image search.

Stay on the dating website’s message service until you are confident the person is genuine, and ensure meetings happen in a public place.

If you think you have been scammed, immediately tell your bank, reporting centre Action Fraud and the platform on which you connected.

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