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UK Finance is today urging the public to be vigilant and look out for friends and family to help keep them safe from romance scams this Valentine's Day.
New data from UK Finance reveals a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer romance fraud between January - November 2020 compared to the previous year, with the total value of these scams rising by 12 per cent to £18.5 million. The average loss per victim reported to UK Finance members was £7,850, highlighting the significant impact this type of fraud can have on victims’ finances.
But criminals can trick victims into sending them money in many ways, not just via a bank transfer. Action Fraud has also seen a rise in reports made by members of the public who have fallen victim to romance fraud in 2020, with total reported losses equating to over £68 million. In these reports, victims have lost money via bank transfer, money transfer, sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops, and providing them with access to their bank account or card.
The rise in romance scams comes as more people have turned to online dating during 2020 due to social distancing restrictions. Figures from the Online Dating Association (ODA) estimate that over 2.3 million Brits used dating apps during the first lockdown, with 64 per cent of people surveyed seeing dating apps as a lifeline for those living alone.
Scammers will often build a relationship with their victims over time, the ODA’s data shows that half (53 per cent) of people surveyed are having longer conversations on dating services during lockdown. UK Finance is therefore calling on people to look out for their friends and family this Valentine’s Day. Dating app users should also speak to their friends and family for advice, and follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from scams.
Signs your friend or family member may be involved in a romance scam:
How users can stay safe from romance scams:
If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed - you are not alone. Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101.
It is important that no matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you think you trust them, if you have not met them in person it’s important that you do not: