Last year Metro Bank saw a more than 50% increase in romance scams and latest UK Finance data shows scammers earned £18.5m in the first six months of last year – that’s a staggering £102,209 a day or more than £4,000 every hour.
“Everyone should be aware of how charming and persuasive scammers can be,” warns Metro Bank’s Head of Fraud & Investigations, Baz Thompson. “These figures show that for scammers it is worth their time and effort to try and woo you to get your hard-earned savings. Never, ever give money to someone you have not physically met.
“We had a customer who originally lost over £56,000 just by initially responding to a random email. The email progressed into a telephone relationship over the course of several month with a lady scammer. He never met the lady, video calls always failed – all he had was a photo. The first payment request was just for a few hundred pounds – he was happy to help as she seemed in genuine need. By the time he started to get suspicious, he had made over 80 payments in less than six months and had lost nearly £57,000. We were able to help him recover more than £31,000 but the loss was still significant. The loss was not just financial - there were emotional and mental health side effects. This case is not unusual - 38% of online daters are asked to give money to an online partner they have never even met.”
But regardless of the amount these cases can be very convincing by the scammer and very distressing for the victim.
Cifas is offering the following guidance ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Fall for the person - not the profile.
Stop – Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money – trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not!
Challenge – Is this person who they say they are? It’s okay to refuse any requests for money and financial or personal details.
Protect – Follow our tips below to prevent yourself falling victim to romance scams. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam report it to your bank immediately.
Ahead of Valentine’s Day – be conscious of how to stay safe when dating online:
- Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person, no matter how small the amount they are asking for or how convincing their story sounds.
- Be alert to inconsistencies in stories and information about themselves.
- Profile pictures may not be genuine – reverse image search to check the picture isn’t associated with another name. Remember this might not always identify a criminal so you should continue to be cautious.
- Never share any personal details with strangers.