Bank transfer romance fraud increased by 20% between January and November last year, according to new data from UK Finance.
The total value of these scams rose by 12% to £18.5m in 2020, when compared to the previous year. The average loss per victim reported to UK Finance was £7,850.
More people have turned to online dating during 2020, contributing to the rise in romance scams. More than 2.3 million Brits used dating apps during the first lockdown and scammers are using this as an opportunity to exploit and coerce people into parting with their money.
Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber reporting centre, has also reported a rise in romance fraud, with total reported losses in 2020 equating to over £68m.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Last year, we sadly saw criminals exploit the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, and romance fraud was no exception. 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.”
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “With the rising use of online dating service users during lockdown, criminals are using clever tactics to exploit people who think they’ve met their perfect partner online. Scammers can be very convincing by forming an emotional attachment with their victims.”