In a stark warning in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, UK organisations have urged lonely single people to be mindful of the rise in romance fraud. This type of fraud has become increasingly prevalent during lockdowns over the past 12 months. Lloyds Bank reports those most likely to fall for scams are single people aged between 55 and 64.
Covid-19 has resulted in feelings of loneliness and isolation being enhanced for many singles who live alone. Many have turned to the internet in the hope of finding company and even love, but some have ended up falling victim to fraud and consequently lost vast amounts of money. Many fraudsters operating romance scams target older people who have been identified as being particularly at risk.
A sharp increase since 2019
While romance fraud has been increasing steadily for years due to the increased popularity of online dating, it has become worse over the past year. Millions of older, single Brits have found themselves locked down for the best part of the year, meaning more have turned to platforms like online dating and chat sites to meet and talk to people.
Data from UK Finance shows that financial fraud relating to romance scams increased by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019. In total, £68 million was lost to such fraud through bank transfers. Action Fraud data shows the amount lost by those falling victim to romance fraud came to £5 million more than the amount lost to online shopping fraud last year.
The head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said, "The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives, implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen."
Warning issued by organisations
Officials are now urging people to be wary as Valentine's Day approaches and ensure they do not send any money or provide any account details to people they connect with online. They have also urged people never to provide sensitive details or copies of documents such as passports and driving licenses.
Those who believe fraudsters are targeting them are urged to contact Action Fraud to report the crime so the police can investigate. Often, those who do lose money to romance fraudsters are too embarrassed to report it, enabling perpetrators to continue scamming lonely older people out of vast sums of money.
Why older people?
Romance scammers target people of all ages who come online to find friendship, companionship, and love. Many successfully tap into emotions and feelings of loneliness, which has become easier for them in the past year due to Covid-19.
Single people in older age groups typically live alone rather than with other family members. As such, they are prime targets for fraudsters looking to take advantage of lonely people. Older people are also more likely to have some money put aside or have credit cards they can use to transfer cash to fraudsters, hence why they’re often targeted.