Romance scams surged 22% in 2023 compared to the previous year, with an average loss of £6,937 per victim, according to the latest figures from Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LSE:LLOY).
Romance scams are characterised by fraudsters exploiting individuals seeking romantic connections via fake profiles on social media and dating apps.
Scammers engage in long-term manipulations, often fabricating reasons to avoid in-person meetings or video calls, eventually leading to requests for money under various pretexts.
Men were slightly more susceptible to these scams, accounting for 52% of the cases, although women reported higher financial losses on average.
55 to 64-year olds were the most likely targets, experiencing a near 49% surge in incidents, while those aged 65 to 74 suffered the highest financial damages.
To mitigate the risk of falling victim to romance scams, Lloyds urged the public to exercise caution with strangers on social media, scrutinise overly professional profile photos, seek advice from acquaintances, refrain from financial transactions with unknown online contacts, and be sceptical of continuous excuses for not meeting in person.
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds, said: “Targeting those looking for love is a cruel, but sadly common, way for fraudsters to cash in.
“Scammers can be incredibly convincing and leave their victims both emotionally and financially drained.
“Social media and online dating apps are rife with fake profiles, and it can be hard to tell who is genuine. Remember that no good relationship starts off by sending money to someone you haven’t met and this should be a big red flag.
“As soon as someone you’re talking to starts asking for money, step back from the situation and never hand anything over. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”