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Valentine's pain: Romance scams on men rise by two-fifths

Valentine's pain: Romance scams on men rise by two-fifths
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

Romance scams targeting men rose by two-fifths between 2022 and 2023, while cases against women dropped by 2% in that time, data reveals.

In 2023, there were 42% more cases of romance scams reported by men than women, with men aged between 50 and 70 years old the most likely to be victims of the scam.

However, all ages are susceptible to the scam, as one in five cases reported by men to Nationwide were aged between 20 and 30, with the average claim from men amounting to £8,181.

Meanwhile, the overall losses by women were higher, who on average claimed £10,610 from the mutual in losses. Half of all cases reported to the mutual were for claims below £1,000, while a quarter of all cases were for losses between £1,000 and £5,000.

Most claims were lower than the average, as the amount requested by fraudsters usually begins at a low amount before rising further as the relationship progresses.

Romance scams involve a fake online relationship set up by scammers who aim to build trust with their victims before asking for money to be sent over. Reasons for the bank transfer will typically be for supposed family issues or for travel arrangements to meet up with their new partner.

Men aged between 20 and 30 reported one in five of male romance scams

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, where love could be in the air (or online), Jim Winters, Nationwide’s director of economic crime, has warned web daters to be vigilant.

He said: “Criminals can be very convincing and persuasive enough to get someone looking for love or feeling lonely to give them their trust, personal details, and ultimately their money, even when they haven’t met each other in person.

“Our data shows all ages can be a target of romance scams as criminals will cast their net far and wide to stand the best chance of snaring a victim.”

Winters added: “This is why everyone looking for love, regardless of age or gender, needs to protect their wallet as well as their hearts by looking out for any red flags. Be curious, ask questions and involve family and friends who have your best interests at heart. Education is the biggest deterrent to scams.”

The mutual has provided a list of danger signs to look out for when an unexpected love interest appears.

Red flags and warning signs to look out for:

  • Available or remote? Many repeatedly avoid meeting in person and have a variety of reasons as to why they can’t meet up, such as working abroad and being unable to travel. They may also refuse to even show themselves over a video call, claiming, for example, that their camera isn’t working.
  • Financially stable or in crisis? At some point, they will introduce a crisis that means you need to help them financially, such as needing help with medical fees, an ill relative, paying for materials or tools for their business, travel expenses, or avoiding persecution. It may even mean you become complicit in their fraud.
  • Attentive or controlling? The scammer may try to establish constant contact, encourage you to keep the relationship secret, and try to get you to communicate with them off of the original dating site you met on, by suggesting you move to a more private method, such as email, phone, or instant messaging.
  • Besotted or obsessive? They are likely to fall in love with you very quickly and declare strong feelings for you after a few conversations. They will work hard to get you to match their feelings.
  • Generic or endearing? Scammers often use scripts and are in contact with more than one victim at a time. To keep all their plates spinning at the same time, they may avoid using your name and instead use terms of endearment like ‘honey’, ‘babe’, or ‘angel’ that can be used with multiple people.
  • Real photo or too good to be true? Romance scammers will often provide photos that may have been stolen from many places online, whether that be from professional websites or another person’s social media profiles.
  • Consistency or flaws in the story: Their profile on the internet dating website or social media page may include spelling and grammar mistakes and not be consistent with what they tell you.