Reports made to Action Fraud reveal that a staggering £50,766,602 was lost to romance fraud in 2018 – an average of £11,145 per victim and a 27% increase on the previous year.

One case study reveals how a woman lost nearly £10,000 to a romance fraudster who claimed to be in the British Army.

New statistics released last week reveal that many people across the UK continue to fall victim to this type of fraud, often with devastating consequences. In 2018 alone there were 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, with victims reporting to have lost over £50 million.

Not only are victims losing vast amounts of money, the emotional impact this may have can be even more difficult to come to terms with. In a report produced by Action Fraud, 42% of victims described falling victim to romance fraud as having a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.

The report also showed that the average age of a romance fraud victim is 50 and that 63% of dating fraud victims are female who lose twice as much on average than males.

The organisation which is part of the City of London Police believes that these numbers do not accurately represent the true scale of the problem. Some people may feel embarrassed to have fallen victim which may discourage them from coming forward to report their experience.

Date safe tips on how to avoid a romance scam

  • Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
  • Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
  • Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
  • Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
  • Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.

Head of the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Department, Commander Karen Baxter, said: “As cases of romance fraud increase each year, so too does the cost to victims, both emotionally and financially. The emotional damage of falling victim to romance fraud can often be far more difficult to come to terms with.

“Heartless fraudsters are cruelly targeting vulnerable victims and exploiting those looking for love online.

“Together with our partners, we are urging people to spot the signs of romance fraud and to follow the ‘Date Safe’ advice this Valentine’s Day and in the future.

“If you think you have been a victim of romance fraud, please report this to Action Fraud.”

Chief Officer at independent charity Victim Support, Diana Fawcett, said: “Romance fraud affects victims both emotionally and financially and for many, the impact can be long-term.

“These scams can be extremely sophisticated and victims should not feel ashamed or embarrassed and shouldn’t blame themselves in any way.

“It’s important that victims know there is help available to them and we would encourage them to seek support.”

Fraud can be reported to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.