Posted: Wed 10th Feb 2021

Valentine’s Day warning over online dating as romance scams with reports of a 20% rise during lockdown

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 10th, 2021

UK Finance is urging the public to be vigilant this upcoming Valentine’s Day due to un uptick in “romance scams.”

The trade association for the UK banking and financial sector – found a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer romance fraud between January-November 2020 compared to the previous year with people losing on average £7,850.

Some reports suggest others have lost money via money transfer or sending gift cards and presents such as phones or laptops with the scammers usually going to great lengths to gain the trust of a person only to dupe them into sending money over and then stealing it.

Figures from the Online Dating Association (ODA) estimate over 2.3m people used dating apps during the first lockdown and 53 per cent have longer conversations during lockdown.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “With the rising use of online dating service users during lockdown, criminals are using clever tactics to exploit people who think they’ve met their perfect partner online.

“Romance scams can leave customers out of love and out of pocket, but there are steps people can take to keep themselves or their family and friends safe – both on and offline.

“People can help their loved ones spot the signs of a scam, particularly as romance scammers can be very convincing by forming an emotional attachment with their victims.

“The banking and finance industry is working hard to protect customers from fraud, but everyone should remain vigilant to the risks of romance scams. If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam, please contact your bank as soon as possible.”

George Kidd, Chief Executive of the Online Dating Association, said: “ODA members work to keep users safe by using human and technology content moderation. Many services allow daters to use “selfies” and video to assure others of their identity.

“The services offer messaging platforms which allow chat in a managed space. Daters should make the most of this secure environment and remember the time online is the beginning of getting to know someone you have never met in person.

“You should never hesitate to report if someone asks you for money, even if they do this outside of the dating service.”

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Last year, we sadly saw criminals exploit the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, and romance fraud was no exception.

“The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen.

“It’s important to say that most online dating sites, social media sites and gaming apps are perfectly safe. However, any online platform that allows you to connect with and talk to other people could be targeted by romance fraudsters so it’s important to remain vigilant.

“If you think you’ve been a victim of romance fraud, please don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed – you are not alone. Anyone can fall victim to fraud, but it’s important that contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud.

If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.

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