Ashley Hart, head of fraud at TSB, the high street bank, said: “Men are increasingly likely to fall victim to romance scams, especially via social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook – where there has been a surge in fraudsters targeting young men in particular.
“Be suspicious of people that come on strong and declare love early, do a reverse image search on their profile photos, avoid sending any compromising photos to people you’ve not met in person.
“Be on your guard if you arrange to meet but they keep cancelling at the last minute – and most importantly, don’t fall for a sob story and don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person.”
Thomas, a 34-year-old man from the West Midlands, fell victim to a romance scam in 2019 when he was targeted by scammers claiming to be a woman called Tonia who was based in the US but from Ireland originally.
The pair bonded over their love of travel and their pet dogs, but in the course of the conversation Thomas gave enough information to the woman that the criminals were able to take out a £14,000 loan in his name.
In an elaborate ruse the woman then claimed that she needed help transferring money to a friend. Thomas did not realise the money he transferred was in fact the loan in his name until he received letters from the lender.
He reported the scam to HSBC, his bank, and was refunded.
Mr James said it was easy to overshare when speaking to someone trusted on social media, but this could put someone at risk.
In 2020, 3,766 reports to Action Fraud were made by women. Experts said the reports were likely to be an underrepresentation of the true scale of fraud as victims may feel too embarrassed to come forward.