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Romance Scams are on the rise – do you know how to protect yourself?

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Recent data from Barclaycard estimates the amount of money lost to romance scammers has risen 60% in six months, with victims often losing thousands of pounds.

Online dating can be very successful, with many people finding true love and their ‘happy ever after’. Others are not so lucky, joining dating sites at a time when they are feeling lonely and vulnerable and, sadly, becoming the target for fraudsters out to steal their money.

Scammers are never far away – stay vigilant!

Did you know 77% of romance scams occur via dating apps and social media platforms? Earlier in the year, we highlighted what romance scams are and how to keep your colleagues, friends and family safe online.

We detailed the typical hallmarks of a romance scam, including:

  • Being asked many questions about yourself, without much information being given by the other person.
  • Intense flattery, early on in the relationship, to build trust and an emotional connection, otherwise known as ‘love bombing.’
  • A keenness from the other person to move conversations to another messaging platform, but a reluctance to video call or meet in person.
  • Asking for financial help, to cover ‘urgent’ travel costs or to pay an outstanding bill.
  • As part of developing the relationship and building trust, the scammer will try to corroborate their identity by sending documents such as a passport or driving licence – often asking for the victim’s, in return.

The latest data from Barclaycard suggests that scammers are persuading people to part with their cash to pay for bills and everyday essentials, as the cost-of-living crisis continues.

Ross Martin, head of Barclays’ digital safety team, said:

“Scammers can be very manipulative and will play on your emotions to get you to send them money. When they pull at your heartstrings, claiming to need money to pay for food or bills, it can be hard to say no, but you should never feel pressured into doing this.

Remember, if something doesn’t seem right, always speak to someone you trust – whether that’s a friend, family, or your bank – for a second opinion.”

The sums of money involved might start small, but repeated requests from someone you think you can trust can soon add up. According to the Barclaycard data, the average amount lost in a romance scam is £10,000.

You may think that older, less tech-savvy people are the only ones at risk of being scammed, but the Barclaycard data suggests young people need to take extra care, too. Despite people aged 21 to 30 saying they were confident that they wouldn’t become the victim of romance fraud, they were in fact twice as likely to be scammed as those aged 51 to 60!

Romance scams are a type of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, where the victim authorises their bank to transfer money to the other person’s account. At the point the transfer is made, most victims don’t realise they are being scammed, or that the money will be moved quickly to another account, making it very difficult or impossible to trace.

If you are familiar with mobile and online banking, you will have seen an increased number of warnings about possible fraud and your bank may have put in place additional checks to protect your money. If you have lost money to a scam or fraud, your bank can investigate but they may conclude that they are not at fault – arguing that as you authorised the payments, then they should not be expected to refund your lost money.

But there have been a number of important decisions made by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) about the banks’ responsibility to their customers. FOS was set up as an independent body to settle disputes between financial institutions and their customers, so if you disagree with the decision your bank reached regarding a refund, then you can take your case to FOS and they will carry out their own investigation.

Recent FOS decisions focus on the banks’ duty of care to their customers. They highlight the due diligence checks that should be carried out on large, infrequent or unusual transactions. They also emphasise the fact that where there are ‘red flags’, banks should do more to stop or temporarily block payments, in order to gather more information.

Commenting on the Barclaycard findings, Sarah Spruce, Head of the Authorised Push Payment (APP) team at TLW Solicitors said:

“Whilst the APP Fraud team at TLW and I had a sense that the number of romance scams was increasing, we have been surprised by the reported figure of 60%. I also anticipate that there may well be far more cases that are simply not reported. This is because the scam victim either does not want to believe that anything is wrong or is too embarrassed or ashamed to come forward, so it is important that family members and friends support them and know where to turn for help.

I would encourage anyone, whether you’ve been the victim of a romance scam yourself, or you know a colleague, friend or family member who has been scammed, to get in touch with the specialist team at TLW Solicitors so we can investigate a possible refund claim. The first steps you should take if you are the victim of a scam is to urgently contact your bank, as well as Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre which may lead to a criminal investigation by the police.

If you are aware of anyone close to you involved in any form of online dating or relationship, don’t be afraid to warn them of the ‘red flags’ and risks of these types of scams.”

TLW Solicitors has an experienced team of Romance Scam compensation specialists, who regularly deal with FOS claims. We know the time limits that apply, the complex legal arguments and defences that the bank may raise, and what information is needed to make your claim or appeal successful. If you, a colleague, friend or loved one have been the victim of a romance scam or other APP fraud, please get in touch by telephone, email or using the contact form below.

We offer a free, no-obligation assessment of your case. If we take on your case, we operate on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, meaning you do not pay us anything if your refund claim is unsuccessful.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.

Scammers can be very manipulative and will play on your emotions to get you to send them money.

Ross Martin - Barclays