Online romance scams usually start on dating sites, Facebook and in chat rooms with the aim of the scammer to trick people into sending them money in the name of love.
“These imposters create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love,” said Carol Kando-Pineda. “Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money.”
In a separate article in the South China Morning Post, it reported that romance scams in Hong Kong had also tripled in recent times, as African masterminds recruit in Asia.
New statistics released ahead of Valentine’s Day prove that the UK is continuing to lose huge amounts of money to romance fraud as well – with victims conned out of £41 million in 2017 alone. This is according to figures from The City of London Police, whose remit covers online fraud nationwide, working with Get Safe Online and its partners.
Romance fraud is when someone creates a fake identity to enter into a relationship with a victim, with the intent to steal either funds or personal information. In 2017, 3,557 romance frauds were reported to Action Fraud in the UK, averaging 10 reports a day.
This amount equates to £11,500 per victim. Those who fall victim to these frauds are almost twice as likely to be women (63% compared with 37% of men).
The victims are almost twice as likely to be women and in their forties or fifties, say City of London police. Only 13 per cent of the reported frauds impacted those under 30.
However, evidence suggests these numbers do not accurately represent the true scale of the problem due to the “embarrassment” felt by some victims of fraud, which can discourage people from coming forward to report their experience. Furthermore, most dating apps and sites do not reveal how many people actually report romance scams to them directly. But, reporting is crucial in stopping these fraudsters whose impact extends beyond just taking money.
Considering the above, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many people are subject to online romance fraud, but with the constant advances in technology, the number of scam victims is definitely on the rise. This is why dating apps and sites need to do more to vet their users.
On most dating apps and sites, it is very easy for anyone to create a fake profile and upload fake photos, but identity verification is something we could and should see more of in the future.