Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, has revealed that reports of romance fraud continued to rise in 2021 as the country navigated its third lockdown.
7,754 reports were submitted in the first four months of the year, representing a 40% increase compared to the same period of 2020. The average victim was scammed out of approximately £9,500 as the total lost amount reached £73.9 million.
However, the actual amount is believed to be much higher as many victims often feel too embarrassed or ashamed to file a report.
Romance scams have unfortunately become more prevalent during periods of lockdown and social distancing. As the majority of singles were forced to turn to online platforms for their dating activities, this presented more targets for fraudsters.
Speaking on a special episode of The GDI Podcast in April, online dating expert Charly Lester explained that even criminals started to ‘work’ from home during the pandemic and started utilising a variety of online scams.
Alex Rothwell, interim Detective Chief Superintendent, City of London Police, told Sky News at the start of the year: “In this past year, where the pandemic has made it genuinely harder to meet people in person, that may have been exploited by scammers to manipulate victims, who are more isolated, vulnerable and spending more time online.”
The problem also appears to be escalating in the US. The Federal Trade Commission reported over $300 million was lost throughout 2020, a 50% increase from 2019.
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