Love fraud on rise in coronavirus lockdown

Love scams – scamming somebody out of money by pretending to want a relationship – has actually been on the increase throughout lockdown.

According to UK Financing, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance rip-offs in 2020 compared to 2019.

And ₤ 68m was lost to such frauds in 2020, said the UK’s Action Scams – another boost on the previous year.

Organisations cautioned people to be watchful ahead of Valentine’s Day.

The suggestions includes:

In both 2019 and 2020, the amount of cash lost to love scams outstripped that taken by online shopping fraud, according to Action Scams, which is the main reporting body in the UK.

In 2020, online shopping and auction scams represented ₤ 63m compared to ₤ 68m for dating frauds.

The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the issue.

“The national lockdowns, and other constraints on our social lives, executed due to the fact that of the coronavirus break out, have actually suggested more people have actually been looking for friendship online and this has actually undoubtedly impacted the number of reports we have seen,” stated Pauline Smith, head of Action Scams.

“Romance scams can leave consumers out of love and expense,” added Katy Worobec, managing director of financial crime at trade association UK Finance.

Cash laundering

Victims of romance frauds lose money via money transfers, and sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops. Some even offer access to their checking account or bank card.

Scammers can be really persuading, using emotive language and stories to manipulate individuals, for example stating they require money for medical expenses.

And increasingly, victims are at threat of prosecution in addition to having their checking account cleared – as it is revealed that some scammers are now inquiring to unknowingly launder cash for criminal gangs.

ABC News reported on an Australian female who believed she was falling in love with a United States army officer however ended up laundering A$ 150,000 (₤ 83,000) for such a gang.

Identity scams

According to data from Lloyds Bank, individuals aged 55 to 64 are particularly at risk.

Like Anna (not her genuine name) who remains in her 50s and a widow: she ended up being victim to her scammer– who called himself Tim– after satisfying him on a dating site, initially using its chat center before changing to WhatsApp.

After a few weeks, Tim told Anna he was taking a trip to Romania to deal with a transport job, and asked her to send money. Initially he requested for small amounts, and after that larger ones, ultimately defrauding her of ₤ 320,000.

Love scams often starts on online dating sites however rapidly changes to social media or old-fashioned texting, so there is no evidence of the rip-off.

In some cases the scammer is more subtle than just asking for cash, looking for rather to gather personal information, which can later on be used to commit identity scams.

Numerous victims do not report love scams since they are embarrassed or ashamed. But for those who do, there is some option. In 2019 banks consented to a voluntary code which said that if someone “has taken sensible care and has any element of vulnerability” they are more likely to get a refund.

In Anna’s case for instance, she had the ability to recuperate half of what she lost.

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