TSB has released data ahead of Valentine’s day showing how dating sites are “riddled with scammers”. Unfortunately, it has shown that women were targeted in two-thirds of the cases it analysed and the average age of those scammed was 47 years old. The average amount of money swindled from women was £6,300 compared with men at £4,600.
Robert Rendell, VP of payment solutions at Feedzai, said of romance scams:
“These scams are about coercion and manipulation of emotions. Individuals need to be careful about what they post on social media. For younger generations, that could mean heart break or recent break-ups, while older people might need to be especially careful right after a death of a loved one. As crass as it sounds, fraudsters love obituaries, they offer up very emotional insights into one’s life and all the remaining survivors. For example, a fraudster might call up an elderly woman and inform her that her grandson is in jail, after reading the name and other identifiable information in the obituary. In other instances, scammers might impersonate a former co-worker of the deceased, and use that as a way to gain the victim’s trust.
“At this time of year, people are advised to pay attention to what they share on social media (Facebook / Instagram / Tinder) – personal information such as a recent breakup might be weaponised as part of elaborate social engineering scams. Fraudsters often create intricate narratives that will make use of any publicly available information, whether that is the name of relatives, friends, or other details that might add credibility to their story and help them befriend their targets.”
Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate at Comparitech, also shed some light on romance scams, saying: “Romance scams are among the most lucrative types of online fraud, and scammers will go to the effort of building a fake relationship with someone to reap the rewards. It’s easy to assume that you would never fall for a scam, but you would be surprised how much people are willing to overlook when they’re infatuated. Often these scams can continue for months after the victim realizes they’re being defrauded because they want the relationship to continue.”
Rendell also made it clear that awareness in these instances is key, as anyone can fall victim, particularly if they are feeling vulnerable:
“The ubiquity of romance and affective scams makes it ever more important to raise awareness on the issue,” he said. “Anyone could fall victim to this type of fraud, especially the most vulnerable. For this reason, people should always seek the advice of a trusted person when they are contacted by someone out of the blue, and should never feel ashamed to seek verification that the person they are talking to is who they say they are.”
Finally, Chris Hauk, consumer privacy champion at Pixel Privacy, added his advice:
“Lonely hearts scams are on the rise, particularly around Valentine’s Day.
To avoid situations like this, folks should:
- Be immediately suspicious of any requests for money from anyone they have only met online. Never go for investments or other financial deals suggested by someone you haven’t met in person. (Although you should also be suspicious of any : investment opportunities” online or offline.)
- Don’t be catfished, do a reverse image search for profile photos. Reverse image searches can cue you in if your “one true love” is not who they say they are.
- If you are the victim of any type of fraud, report it immediately both to the police and your financial institution.”