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Romance fraud losses up 95% in three years

Rebecca Goodman
Written By:
Rebecca Goodman

The amount of money lost to romance scams rose 95% between 2020 and 2022, data reveals.

The total amount lost to this type of scam for the first half of 2020 was £8.5m but in the same period in 2022, it nearly doubled to £16.6m.

There were more than 7,000 victims of romance fraud during 2020, 2021 and the first half of 2022, while 64 cases a week are recorded.

Over this time period, a total of £65m was taken by criminals carrying out these scams, according to data from UK Finance.

Facebook and Instagram the main offenders

The average time between the first and last payment being made in a romance scam is 53 days, according to research from TSB.

In 60% of cases recorded by the bank, scammers demand financial help for bills either with specific reasons, such as needing medical help or home improvements, or with requests for money to help them “get by”.

One in six (21%) claim they are stuck abroad with no way to get home and 8% ask for money to book a trip for their victim, which never happens.

One in 20 (4%) of cases have seen victims blackmailed, as fraudsters threaten to share personal information or explicit images.

The bank is urging people to remain vigilant and said Facebook and Instagram are two of the easiest places for scammers to create fake profiles. It also said it had seen cases on Match, Plenty of Fish, Snapchat, Grindr and Tinder.

Victims aged between 51 and 65 spending the most

The cases recorded of these scams is relatively even across all age groups, yet the bank said the money spent by those aged 51 – 65 accounted for 46% of all financial losses. Those aged over 65 accounted for 26% of the money sent to criminals.

By comparison, those aged 18 – 35 and 36 – 50 accounted for 14% and 13% of losses respectively.

Almost £17m was lost by all banking customers in the first half of 2022, according to UK finance, with an average of £10,000 per case.

At TSB, 4% of all fraud losses come from romance scams. It also said it’s seen cases where victims take out loans for fraudsters.

Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said: “The best way of beating romance scammers is by talking to friends and family about the relationships you’re in – if you’re ever asked to send money then it’s time to stop.

“Social media and tech firms also need to step up to better protect those seeking relationships on their platforms.”

Earlier this year TSB warned that a quarter of scam victims may not be refunded under new rules proposed by the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) which would see a £100 loss threshold set for claims.