Cases of online dating fraud in the UK have grown by 33%, new figures reveal.
A report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) found that the UK public lost £34m to scammers in 2014.
This is a huge 33% increase from the reported cases of fraud in 2013, where £24.5m was lost by UK singles.
The report also found that cases of fraud spiked in the period after Valentine’s Day, from April to May 2014.
Singles may either be more susceptible to scams in this period, or they have been hooked by fraudsters over the Christmas or Valentine’s period.
And 85% of cases reported in 2014 originated on dating sites or forums.
Of the 15% of cases that didn’t originate on dating sites, 75% of first contact was made on Facebook, with scammers adding the victim as a friend.
The other services used by scammers were Skype, Tagged, Google+, email, and Friends Reunited.
Once victims were hooked by the scammer, and needed a method to transfer money, 54% of payments were made by money transfers like Money Gram or Western Union, and 37% paid directly from their bank accounts.
Regarding location, London had the most cases with 325, followed closely by Birmingham, Brighton and Manchester.
Tony Neate, the CEO of Get Safe Online, said: “What strikes me is the length of time and effort fraudsters are willing to commit to in order to take people’s money and destroy their lives and confidence.
“One case which started in 2003 showed a victim giving over £45,000 to a fraudster over a period of nine years before they realised it was a scam and reported it to Action Fraud. For this victim, this would have rightly felt like a long-term and honest relationship.”
Women reported 57% of dating scams, with the 45-55 age group being the most targeted.
Men aged 18-25 were most likely to be the targets of romance fraud.
Action Fraud has a fraud reporting tool, which can be used by personal victims of dating frauds, or businesses like dating sites, to report users or email addresses in bulk.
To find out more about scammers, download our special report on scammers and dating fraud, sponsored by Scamalytics, below: