Almost £95m lost to romance fraud in past year

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) received 8,792 reports of romance fraud over the past year, amounting to losses of more than £94.7 million.

Jun 20, 2024
By Paul Jacques

The City of London Police run NFIB said the average loss per person was £10,774.

Reporting is now at some of the highest levels to date, with an 8.4 per cent increase on the previous 12-month figures (up from 8,110).

Romance fraud is when people are defrauded into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship.

“Romance fraud remains a high-risk fraud, impacting those targeted financially, emotionally, and psychologically,” said City of London Police. “Victims of romance fraud often suffer significant financial losses, but also face the psychological and emotional impact of losing a partner and support system after having been manipulated and deceived in such a callous, calculated way.”

City of London Police Detective Superintendent Oliver Little said romance fraud continues to be one of the most common types of fraud that is reported and it was “shocking to see an increase of nearly ten per cent in the number of reports made in the last year”.

“Despite this increase, we know romance fraud is a heavily underreported crime so it is likely to be significantly more widespread. We encourage everyone to come forward if they think they could be a victim,” said Det Supt Little.

“There is no shame in telling your story, as it is through this sharing of intelligence that can really help us learn about the tactics used and, ultimately, catch those responsible. Your report may be the final piece in the puzzle, as often these callous criminals will target more than one person.”

For almost a third of those targeted, fraudsters spent more than a year using various tactics to build trust and companionship. This long-term form of coercion is then used to engineer scenarios that pressure victims into handing over money. This could include paying for travel, convincing the victim to pay for an item such as a mobile phone, and, in some cases, taking out loans or making investments on their behalf.

Of the reports made, 45 per cent of approaches were via online dating sites, 41 per cent were made by social media and 12 per cent via communications platforms.

Increasingly criminals approach targets on social media and communications platforms rather than dating sites, as such approaches are less expected.

Some reporting also suggests that criminals are using cold outreach methods, for example ‘wrong number’ messages and hacked social media accounts, to approach targets.

City of London Police says contrary to common misconceptions, there is a fairly equal split between male and female victims (42 per cent and 58 per cent respectively) and all age groups are affected. Men aged 50-79 and women aged 30-79 report the most.

Romance fraud is one of the top five most commonly reported frauds to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Action Fraud also run the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit, which provides support and advice to victims of fraud and helps prevent them from falling victim to fraud again.

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