Those looking for love this Valentine’s Day are being warned about ‘rom-cons’ in which romance scammers target people on dating apps.
Across the whole of 2023, the average value of a romance scam was approaching £30,000, according to latest figures.
Fraudsters can spend weeks – or even months – “grooming” their victim before asking for money.
Once the fraudster believes their victim has developed an emotional attachment, this can be a trigger point for requests for money to be made, according to HSBC UK, which saw romance scams worth nearly £6 million attempted across last year.
The cases the bank dealt with remained consistent throughout the year, with between one and two dozen romance scams uncovered each month.
Often, victims lose much more than money, as they believe they are in a committed relationship with the person they are talking to.
In some cases, fraudsters may also persuade people to send explicit images, which they could then use to blackmail the person they have been talking to into handing over money.
Criminals will use fake profiles, with images stolen from elsewhere – so it could be worth doing a reverse image search to check whether a photo actually originates from someone else.
Scammers may even try to misuse celebrities’ profiles to lure people in.
Last October, Nottinghamshire Police warned that it had received reports of romance fraud involving people impersonating celebrities to “catfish” others into handing over money.
Romance scammers may also make promises that big sums of cash await.
They may claim they need money up-front in order to release funds, or suggest an “investment opportunity” that their victim should pay into.
David Callington, HSBC UK’s head of fraud says: “Romance scams do not just happen around Valentine’s Day, we see cases of innocent people who are looking for love being scammed all-year round.
“It often takes many months before a scammer shows their true colours, asking for money to pay for what can be quite outlandish reasons.
“There are common factors that should raise serious red flags – requesting money in the first place, being asked to lie to your bank and any payment request is made with absolute urgency and dire consequences if it isn’t made.
“These scammers are experts in emotional manipulation, tapping into the kind nature of their victims with no concern about the financial or emotional impact of their actions.”
People can visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website to help avoid pension and investment scams.
Criminals committing romance fraud are experts at emotional manipulation, so here are some key warning signs to look out for.