Lloyds Bank has issued a stark warning to all customers as a rising number of people are losing out on upwards of £8,000 each on average.
It comes as analysis shows the number of people falling victim to romance scams increased by more than 30% last year. The average amount lost by each victim was £8,234, slightly less than the previous year (£8,655).
The banking giant said anyone can fall victim to fraud, but there are some trends when it comes to different types of scams.
READ MORE: Full list of Barclays, Natwest, HSBC, Lloyds and Halifax bank branches closing in 2023
Last year, men were slightly more likely than women to fall victim to a romance scam, making up around 53% of all cases. Those aged between 65 and 74 were the most likely to be tricked into sending money to a fraudster masquerading as a romantic partner, with the average amount they lost just over £12,000.
Cases were reported right across the UK, but the South East of England was a particular hot spot, as relative to population size, the number of victims was around 15% higher than the national average.
Scammers will usually target victims on social media platforms, particularly Facebook, or dating apps, such as Tinder. But they might quickly try to move the conversation onto another private messaging platform, like WhatsApp.
Typically they will come across as very caring and attentive, messaging back and forth, sometimes over a period of months, to build trust and give the impression that the relationship is genuine. The fraudster may have scoured social profiles to help persuade their victim that they are the perfect match based on shared interests or personal circumstances.
Often they will claim to be living or working abroad to explain why they can’t meet in person. They might also invent reasons why they can’t turn their camera on during calls.
Eventually they will start to tell stories about family or legal issues, business problems or medical bills. They might appear reluctant to accept any help at first, but this is all part of the con.
Amounts could be small to begin with, but over time they convince their victim to send more and more money.
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, told the ECHO: “The convincing lies told by fraudsters mean that while romance scam victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam. As well as losing thousands of pounds they also have to deal with this emotional betrayal.
“The sad truth is there was never any genuine connection, with criminals ruthlessly targeting multiple victims at the same time, and disappearing with the money as soon as they get found out.
“While online dating should be a fun and empowering experience, it’s vital that people are able to spot the warning signs, to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe.
“If you’ve started an online relationship and the discussion turns to money, regardless of the reason or the amounts involved, then alarm bells should be ringing.
“Never send money to people you’ve never met in person, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”
Receive newsletters with the latest news, sport and what's on updates from the Liverpool ECHO by signing up here
Millions of dog and cat owners hit with £5,000 warning
Iceland fans 'clearing freezers' over 'unreal' new snack
Woman stunned after mum demands she give up plane seat for her 6ft 4in son
Emmerdale's Rebecca Sarker's co-star 'love' as she 'sets record straight' on family life
First tell tale signs and symptoms of Parkinson's aren't what you might expect