Since the beginning of 2020, romance fraud has caused consumer retail banks to lose 95% more money, according to data released by TSB, as part of a campaign to bring attention to the problem. In a report released today, the bank said that scammers pretending to be potential love interests online took £65 million from more than 7,000 British people during the time period. Each victim lost an average of £10,000.
It said that cybercriminals stole £17 million over the course of six months and that, even now, the banking industry as a whole sees just over 60 new romance fraud cases every week. TSB found that romance scammers don’t care who they target since the number of cases was about the same for each age group. But even though they only make up 25% of the victims, people aged 51 to 65 lose the most money, even though they are only 25% of the victims.
Possibly because of this, people who are emotionally weak or who have recently been through a life-changing event, like the end of a relationship or the untimely death of a partner, tend to lose the most. Paul Davis, the director of fraud prevention at TSB, said, “Talking to your friends and family about the relationships you’re in is the best way to stop romance scammers. If someone ever asks you to send money, you should stop. “Social media and tech companies need to do more to protect people looking for love on their sites.” Scammers spend a long time getting to know their victims and building trust. On average, it took 53 days before they asked for money.
How Romance Fraud Works
Romance fraudsters are indiscriminate in who they target, but they often prey on emotionally vulnerable people. They take their time to build trust with their marks, and the average relationship lasts about 53 days before they ask for money. The process of how romance fraud works can be broken down into several stages.
The initial contact is usually made through dating websites, social media, or online chat rooms. They will spend time chatting and getting to know their target and often build a relationship based on common interests and shared experiences. The scammer often creates a fake profile, posing as someone who is attractive, caring, and understanding. They may use pictures of someone else, or they may use pictures that they have taken themselves.
The scammer gains trust after their target; they will start to build a deeper emotional connection. They may share personal information about themselves or pretend to be in love. The scammer may also send gifts or flowers to their target, and they will often express a desire to meet in person. However, the meeting never takes place, and the scammer will give excuses such as being deployed abroad, having an illness, or being stuck in a foreign country without any money.
The scammer will eventually ask for money, usually because they need help with some type of emergency. They may claim to have been in a car accident, had their wallet stolen, or needed help paying for a visa to come and meet their target. They will often ask for small amounts of money at first, but these amounts will gradually increase over time. The scammer may also start to ask for more personal information, such as bank details, which they can use to steal more money.
Once the scammer has received all the money they can from their target, they will suddenly stop all communication. The target will be left with no money, a broken heart, and a feeling of shame and embarrassment. Many people who have been victims of romance fraud will feel too ashamed to report the crime and may feel that they have been foolish or naive. However, it is essential to remember that romance fraud is a crime, and it is not the fault of the victim.
As aforesaid, when it comes to romance fraud, the perpetrators seem to be fairly indiscriminate in who they target. TSB’s report showed that case volumes are evenly distributed across age demographics. This means that no one is immune to the tactics of these cybercriminals, regardless of their age, gender, or background.
However, despite making up just 25% of the majority of financial losses are sustained by victims between the ages of 51 and 65. This age group is often the target of these fraudsters because they are considered to be emotionally vulnerable or have recently experienced a significant change in life, such as the death of a loved one or spouse or the end of a relationship.
Scammers often spend significant time building trust with their marks, slowly luring them in with emotional manipulation and false promises. The average relationship between a scammer and their victim lasts around 53 days before they start asking for money. During this time, the fraudster gains the victim’s trust and convinces them to send money or personal information.
It should be noted that persons of all ages can fall prey to romance fraudsters. In many cases, the victims are older and maybe more trusting, but younger people can also be targeted. The key is to remain vigilant and aware of the signs of a potential scam.
How To Protect Yourself From Romance Fraudsters
With romance fraud becoming a growing issue, it is essential to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Here are some safety guidelines to help you:
- Be wary of online profiles:
When searching for love online, be cautious of profiles that seem too good to be true. Romance fraudsters often create fake profiles with attractive images to lure in their victims. Please research and verify their information, such as where they work or went to school. If something seems off, it’s best to move on to someone else.
- Keep your emotions in check:
It can be easy to fall for someone quickly when emotions are involved, but keeping your guard up is important. If you need to get more invested, take a step back and consider the situation more critically. Scammers often take advantage of emotionally vulnerable people who may be looking for love after a recent breakup or loss.
- Take your time:
Building a relationship takes time, and if someone is pushing for money or personal information too quickly, it could be a red flag. Scammers will take their time gaining confidence with their victims, so be suspicious of anyone who appears to be going too quickly.
- Don’t reveal personal information:
Never send out personal information to someone you met online, such as your Social Security number or bank account information. This information can help scammers and cause financial harm.
- Stay away from requests for money:
If someone you’ve met online asks for money, it’s a clear sign of a scam. This could be due to lots of factors, ranging from medical emergencies to assisting a loved one in need. Whatever the reason, don’t give money to someone you’ve only met online.
- Trust your instincts:
If something seems off about someone you’ve met online, it’s best to trust your gut and move on. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to end the relationship and move on. Scammers are experts at manipulating their victims and may not show their true intentions until it’s too late.
- Get help from a professional:
If you suspect romance scams, don’t hesitate to reach out to the authorities. Your bank or local police department can help you report the scam and work to recover any losses.
The Need for Cybersecurity Awareness
Jake Moore, Global Cybersecurity Advisor at ESET, emphasizes the need for cybersecurity awareness to prevent romance fraud. Scammers are becoming more manipulative and sophisticated with their victims, and their tricks and techniques are often very psychological and deeply controlling. Therefore, people continually need cybersecurity awareness, whether from their bank, work, or peers.
With the growing popularity of online dating, scams and frauds targeting people looking for love have also increased. According to statistics released by TSB, romance fraudsters have stolen £65 million from Britons since 2020. This type of fraud has seen a 95% increase across the consumer retail banking sector in the past year alone. Romance fraud is a growing problem in the UK, and it is essential to be aware of the tricks and techniques used by fraudsters. The rise in romance fraud highlights the need for increased cybersecurity awareness, and it is crucial that we educate ourselves and others on the dangers of these scams. By following the steps above, you can protect yourself from these scams and avoid becoming a victim.