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Love bites: Third of UK adults targeted by romance scams

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

A third of adults were targeted by fraudsters aiming to lure victims into a romance scam, according to a bank’s study.

Research from Santander found fraudsters who build a fake relationship before extorting money claimed £31.3m last year, up from £17.8m in 2020.

The lasting effects from romance fraud saw around four in five (81%) of people who lost out financially being put off the idea of dating, and even meeting new people.

Two thirds (67%) of scam victims also struggled to trust a romantic partner, while scammers successful in their scams deceived people into parting ways with an average of £2,331.50.

Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander said: “Scammers can be convincing and clever with their language, which is why we want to help people be more alert to the telltale signs of a romance scam.

“No matter how sweet a situation may seem, it’s important to think twice and ask yourself whether the romance is real, particularly when the conversation veers towards finances. As well as being guarded against sweet-talk, never sending money to people you have only just met and checking in with a trusted friend or family before making any payments, can also help protect you from potential scams.”

Romance scam red flags

The bank noted three tips on how to avoid a romance scam:

  1. Make sure online profile is real. Online friendships are based on profile. It is important to check if the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. For example, you can check if profile photos are genuine by performing a reverse image search on a web search engine. This can find photos that have been taken from someone else.
  2. Don’t lend money to someone you don’t know. Be on red alert if someone you’ve only met online asks you to lend them money, no matter how plausible their reason might seem. Try to remove the emotion from your decision-making and talk it through with someone else.
  3. Don’t lie to your bank. And never lie to your bank if they ask you questions about a payment you are making. Banks know the signs to look out for and their questions are there to help you understand the ‘love language’ to be mindful of, and stop romance scammers from bringing misery to so many people’s lives.

Related: ‘Love bombing’, ‘trauma bonding’, plus the romance scam script to watch out for