The UK is seeing an increase in authorised payment
romance scams costing victims tens of thousands of pounds.
The Sun newspaper recently reported on one such case in which an online dater was defrauded out of substantial amounts of money, and damaged personal relationships, by a scammer posing as a prospective romantic partner.
Married mother of two, Sharon, was added on Facebook by a scammer posing as a widowed US soldier serving in Syria. After a whirlwind three months of speaking to the soldier, Sharon left her husband of 29 years, and the pair started a ‘relationship’. Sharon started to send ‘Murphy’ money for emergencies such as medical treatment and flights, starting gradually at first but then increasing in frequency up to weekly payments, totalling over £80,000.
Despite a number of red flags including falsified medical statements and ‘lost tickets’ that cost Sharon up to £15,000, it wasn’t until she called the US Army, and they confirmed there was no-one serving under the name of the fraudster, that she realised she was the victim of a romance scam. So far, Sharon has been unable to recover any of the money she sent to ‘Murphy’.
With romance scams on the rise, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of a scam, particularly if you are using online dating.
Some top tips include:
- Check-in with family and friends for advice and shared experiences, they may be able to provide an independent and unbiased view and spot the signs of a romance scam.
- Treat requests for money from people you have never met in real life with suspicion.
- Do your own due diligence: use the internet to reverse search profile pictures and research common ‘back stories’, often the scammers have lifted both their photo and their histories from Google and/or other people’s social media.
- Check that your privacy settings on social media and any dating apps are sufficient to safeguard you from scams, and make sure not to post personal information online.
- Don’t be embarrassed – and report any suspected fraud to Action Fraud, the Police and your bank immediately.
Fraud victims can feel embarrassed, wondering how they didn’t realise they were being scammed. It is important to contact the police and your bank to report the crime. You can also report any suspected scamming activity to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre. If you have lost money, that may lead to a criminal investigation by the police.
If you have reported the scam to the police and there is a successful criminal prosecution, you may be awarded compensation by the Court, however, this requires tracing the fraudster which can prove difficult as the money is often swiftly moved on after the fraud.
In addition, banks have a duty of care to clients to ensure that there are sufficient protections and safeguards in place to prevent fraud, and many customers are unaware of this. Such protections include:
- Regularly monitoring accounts and transactions for signs of fraud, scams, and money laundering.
- Implementing systems to identify, delay and/or block suspicious transactions that may indicate fraud.
- Following the City watchdog Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidance on how to protect consumers from fraud.
Where there is a dispute between the bank and a victim of APP fraud, the victim can lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), an independent Government-backed organisation that investigates complaints between consumers and businesses that provide financial services, such as banks.
The FOS is increasingly ruling in favour of scam victims, concluding that banks have not carried out their safeguarding duties sufficiently, and in turn, have awarded considerable levels of compensation to customers.
Sarah Spruce, Head of the APP fraud team at TLW Solicitors comments:
“Victims of romance scams often feel embarrassed or ashamed to come forward and report the fraud, but with the increase in this type of fraud it is clear that they are not alone, and it is important for them to understand that help is out there, even if they think ‘nothing can be done’ or ‘it was all my fault’.
Banks have a duty of care to their customers and encouragingly FOS is increasingly deciding in favour of scam victims where there is evidence that the banks haven’t done enough to protect their customers’ accounts.”
The specialist Romance Scam team at TLW Solicitors has many years of experience in successfully dealing with claims against FOS, even where initial complaints have been rejected.
We understand the time limits to be followed, the information needed and the claims and appeals processes. The team will also deal with any complex legal arguments and defences that the bank may raise. The combination of our experienced team and digital case management systems means that we proactively pursue your claim and aim to get the best possible results.
It will cost you nothing to make an enquiry and once our team has reviewed your potential case and if we feel it suitable, then we will enter into a no-win-no-fee agreement. This means, that if the case is unsuccessful, we will not charge for the time we have spent on the case.
For a confidential, ‘no-obligation’ conversation, call us on 0800 169 5925, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the call-back form.
It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.
Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Romance Scam Claims team.
Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.
- Always fight your corner.
- Explain anything you don't understand.
- Provide full transparency on our charges.
- Never ask for any upfront payment.
- Recover the best compensation we can.
- Keep your personal information safe.
- Respond quickly to any queries.