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Nearly one in ten Brits have fallen victim to a ‘romance’ scam

Nearly one in ten Brits have been a victim of a romance scam, or romance fraud, says new research from human layer security company, Tessian, ahead of Valentine’s Day this year. 

The data, which was commissioned by Tessian to observe the threats facing the British public this Valentine’s Day, revealed that men were actually more than twice as likely to fall victim to romance fraud than women – with 11 per cent of men revealing they have been successfully duped by ‘romance’ scammers versus just 5 per cent of women.

Romance fraud is when scammers form a fake friendship or relationship, usually adopting a false identity. Criminals will socially engineer their victims to gain their trust and trick them into sending large sums of money, providing access to bank accounts or sharing personal information which can be used to commit identity fraud.

Tessian’s data reveals that romance fraud victims were most commonly targeted on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, with a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) saying they’d been successfully scammed on these channels. This was closely followed by email (24 per cent) and one in five people said they’d been targeted via mobile dating apps. Just 14 per cent of victims were successfully targeted via text and WhatsApp. 

Unfortunately, experts say romance fraud has only increased during the Covid-19 pandemic given that more people have relied on online dating and dating apps to connect with people amid social distancing restrictions. In fact, UK Finance reported a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud related to romance scams in 2020 compared to 2019, while the UK’s Action Fraud revealed that £68m was lost by people who have fallen victim. 

Tim Sadler, CEO for Tessian, comments: “Throughout the pandemic, cybercriminals have capitalised on people’s vulnerabilities and situations to craft convincing social engineering attacks and phishing scams. The rise in romance fraud illustrates just how they’re exploiting the ‘lockdown loneliness’ for financial gain.

It’s so important to consider how you could be targeted and to question any requests you receive from individuals you do not know. Establishing trust is a key part of deceiving someone online. Cybercriminals will play the long-game, using a fake identity and exchanging several messages to earn victims’ trust before asking for money or financial information in emails or DMs. The tell-tale signs of a scam can, therefore, be hard to spot. 

As social distancing restrictions remain in place, we advise that people verify the identity of someone you are speaking to via a video call and remain suspicious of any unusual requests. If anyone thinks they may have already been targeted by a romance scam contact Action Fraud immediately.”

Tessian shares the following advice to help people avoid “cat-phishing” scams this Valentine’s Day:

  • Never send money or a gift online to someone who you haven’t met in person.
  • Be suspicious of requests from someone you’ve met on the internet. Scammers will often ask for money via wire transfers or reload cards because they’re difficult to reverse.
  • Verify your correspondent’s identity via a video call. 
  • Be wary of any email or DM you receive from someone you don’t know. Never click on a link or download an attachment from an unusual email address. 
  • Keep social media profiles and posts private. Don’t accept friend requests or DMs from people you don’t know personally.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

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