- Two in five people (38%) who dated someone they met online were asked for money
- Over half (57%) of those who were asked for money said that they gave it or lent it
- Ahead of Valentine’s Day, UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and the Online Dating Association advise people on how to stay safe, including never sending money to someone you have only met on the internet
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, the campaign and the Online Dating Association are warning people to be alert to scammers posing as an online love interest.
After meeting through dating sites, social media or gaming platforms and convincing someone that they are in a relationship, criminals then try and persuade their victims to send them money. Fraudsters often ask the victim to come off the dating platform where they met and use a different messaging service so they can’t be monitored or easily reported.
Of those that were asked to give or lend money by someone they met online, over half (57%) did so – putting them at risk of being a victim of a romance scam.
The three most common reasons people were asked for money were: to pay for an emergency (37%); to pay for the person’s travel to meet them (36 per cent); and, to make an investment (29 per cent).
The average amount of money people were asked for was £345, although some were asked for more than £1000 (6%).
According to a separate survey by the Online Dating Association, 58% of respondents said they would continue to message someone despite the other person being reluctant to meet in person or video call after the first few conversations. This is a warning sign for being scammed as it may be a sign that the person is not who they say they are.
In the first half of 2021 alone over £15 million was lost to these sort of romance scams.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “Criminals are heartlessly targeting people online to trick them into handing over their money as a sign of love. These scams not only emotionally and financially hurt those involved but also affect close friends and family.
“Don’t let it be money at first sight this Valentine’s Day. If you’re ever asked for cash from someone you’ve never met in person then alarm bells should start ringing – it could be a scam.”
Dr Hannah Shimko, Comms and Policy Director at the Online Dating Association said: “The Online Dating Association aims to educate all online daters about how to have a safe and enjoyable experience meeting a partner online. Online daters should be aware of the actions fraudsters will use to manipulate them into parting with their money. This Valentine’s Day, take the time to think about the person behind the profile, get to know your date, and don’t send money to someone you’ve only met online.”
- Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.
- Speak to your family or friends to get advice and share experiences. Friends and family can watch for any change in behaviour.
- Profile photos may not be genuine, so you should make sure to do your research first. You can do this by uploading a picture of the person you’re talking to into your search engine to check that profile photos are not associated with another name. Performing a reverse image search can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else.
- Stay on the dating sites messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and ensure meetings in person take place in a public place. Online dating platforms have moderation and reporting processes in place to protect daters and remove scammers.
- Contact your bank straight away if you think you may have fallen victim to a romance scam, notify Action Fraud and let the platform on which you met the scammer know about the incident.