British victims have lost a reported £30.9 million in online romance scams in 2021—an increase of 41% from 2020. Around 3,270 victims were affected, with an average loss of £8000. Men and women of all ages can become victims of romance fraud. With an ever-increasing number of people using online dating sites, social media and connecting online, this is likely to increase.
Romance fraud, also known as catfishing, is when fraudsters set up a fake online profile to trick innocent people into sending them money or gifts. This is done by creating a fake online relationship with the victim—building trust and a bond over weeks, months or even years.
Romance fraud not only affects victims financially but can also significantly affect a victim's emotional well-being and have psychological and emotional implications. Many clients reported that losing their 'relationship' was even more challenging than their financial loss, with many victims commonly suffering from stress, depression, grief and PTSD.
The internet has provided fraudsters with the ability to reach out to millions of potential victims at the push of a button. With many scammers romancing hundreds of potential victims at any one time. In most cases, romance fraud is operated by organised criminal gangs. However, some criminals work alone, grooming potential victims with the sole purpose of stealing their money.
The 'playbook' of romance scammers usually starts by asking for small amounts of money, gifts or essential items. Over time this leads to larger and more regular payments, with the romance scammer creating elaborate stories to influence victims into making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.
The vast majority of payments made by victims are sent by bank transfer, using savings, taking out loans or even remortgaging. So for many years, the chances of getting your money back from your bank were futile, with many complaints to banks met with ' you authorised the transfer '. However, years of pressure on the banks have led to a much more significant percentage of victims winning back their money and compensation.
Our expert knowledge of financial regulations and consumer protection gives you the best chance of claiming back what is rightfully yours.
If you think you may have become a victim of romance fraud or have friends or family that need help recovering their money, get in touch with our support team. Our financial investigators and in-house counsellors can begin to help you rebuild from what can be a difficult time.