Men are more than twice as likely to end up the victims of online romance scams than women, new research has found.
Romance fraud, the act of approaching unsuspecting people looking for love on dating websites or apps with the aim of tricking them out of either money or enough personal information to steal their identity, has risen significantly while the UK has been in lockdown.
More than one in 10 (11 per cent) of men have fallen victim to romance scams online, compared to five per cent of women, according to research from security firm Tessian.
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Facebook and Instagram were popular launchpads for the fraud, with 24 per cent of the 2,000 respondents saying they’d been scammed after being approached through the social media platforms.
An additional 24 per cent had been targeted over email, while one in five had been scammed via dating apps. Another 14 per cent had been taken advantage of through text messages or over WhatsApp.
More time spent online during the pandemic resulted in a 20 per cent rise in bank transfer fraud linked to romance scams during 2020 compared to the previous year, according to UK Finance, the trade association for the banking sector.
More than 2.3m Britons are believed to have used dating apps during the first national lockdown in March 2020, the Online Dating Association (ODA) has projected.
Criminals often spend time cultivating relationships with their victims for weeks or months, preying on vulnerable people and convincing them to transfer money, sending gift cards, vouchers or presents or providing them with access to their bank account or cards.
“Last year, we sadly saw criminals exploit the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, and romance fraud was no exception,” Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, 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.”
Millions lost to fraudsters
Around £68.2m was lost to dating fraud schemes last year from 6,748 individual reports, data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) found.
The majority of people successfully targeted by fraudsters were aged between 40 and 59-years old, followed by 29 per cent of those aged between 20 and 39 and 23 per cent aged 60-79-years old.
In contrast to Tessian’s research, over half (55%) of victims were women, with men accounting for 36 per cent of reports. An additional 8 per cent of reports were filed by people whose gender was unknown.
Around 63 per cent of victims reported to Action Fraud are female and lose twice as much on average as men.