02 February 2023

Romance scammers break over 60 hearts and wallets every week, warns TSB as Bank reveals fraudsters’ cruel tricks

  • Romance Fraud losses spiked by ninety-five percent across the banking sector in under three years
  • Scammers have claimed 7,000 victims over this period – and robbed almost £17million in just six months
  • TSB finds 51–65-year-olds account for almost half (46%) of all money lost to romance fraud
  • TSB reveals most-used scammer alibis and tricks to extort money
  • Fresh warnings over most-scammed dating and social media platforms
TSB finds that 51-65-year-olds account for almost half (46%)1 of money lost to romance fraud, although the number of fraud cases are spread out across all age groups.
 
Romance scammers have claimed over 7,0002 victims in under three years – and stolen over £65 million3 from people seeking romance online.
 
Money lost spiked by ninety-five percent (95%),4 with a fifty percent (50%) increase in cases. The banking sector currently records 64 cases every week.
 
How do fraudsters extort money?
 
Scammers spend time building trust with their targets before requesting money. TSB found that the average relationship – between the first and last payment made – lasts 53 days5.
 
In three fifths (60%)6 of cases, scammers simply demand financial help for bills, or daily living. Either with specific stories about needing medical help, home improvements or car maintenance; or simply money to help them ‘get by.’
 
One in six (21%) claim they are stuck abroad, and need help supporting themselves while they try to find a way home – with ‘working on an oil rig’ a particular favourite.
 
Almost one in 10 (8%) cases see scammers receiving money to book travel to be with their ‘partners,’ – for trips they will never make.
 
Showing the darkest aspect of this crime, in one in 20 (4%) cases, scammers received payments because they had blackmailed their prey – either due to having been sent explicit images, or due to personal information shared with them.
 
Where do these scams typically take place?
 
TSB is urging the public to remain vigilant on all platforms, and highlights Facebook and Instagram as the main offenders - as scammers create fake profiles with ease. TSB also recorded cases on Match, Plenty of Fish, Snapchat, Grindr and Tinder.
 
TSB advises consulting a friend or family member the very moment an online relationship turns to requests for money. The Bank also stresses the importance of not giving personal and sensitive information away to someone you haven’t met.
 
Which age groups are most impacted?
 
Case volume is spread out relatively evenly across demographics: 18-35 (26%), 36-50 (26%), 51-65 (25%) and 65+ (22%).
 
However, TSB found that 51–65-year-olds are spending by far the most money in their ‘relationships,’ accounting for nearly half (46%) of all financial losses. Alarmingly, over 65s account for a quarter (26%) of money sent to scammers.
 
Younger victims typically spend less – with 18-35-year-olds comprising one in seven (14%) losses. Followed by 36–50-year-olds who lost 13 percent of the overall total.
 
Those aged under 18 did not record a single loss.
 
Romance fraud is big business
 
Sadly, romance fraud is big business – with nearly £17milllion7 lost by all bank customers in the first half of 2022 alone. Latest industry data reveals almost £10,000 is lost per case.
 
At TSB, romance fraud accounts for four percent of all fraud losses, but these are certainly the most emotive scams that TSB refunds.
 
The higher value cases that the industry sees often involve fraudsters preying on emotionally vulnerable customers who have recently had a life-changing experience.
 
Tragically, people can be so involved in their online relationships that they even take loans out to ‘support their relationship.’ A quarter of TSB’s cases over £10,000 included this element.
 
TSB’s Fraud Refund Guarantee continues to provide life-changing protection against romance fraud – ensuring that customers don’t live with the double blow of a broken heart and drained bank account.
 
Paul Davis, Director of Fraud Prevention, TSB, said:
 
“The best way of beating romance scammers is by talking to friends and family about the relationships you’re in – if you’re ever asked to send money then it’s time to stop.
 
“Social media and tech firms also need to step up to better protect those seeking relationships on their platforms.”
 

Notes to editors

Advice on Romance Fraud from TSB’s Director of Fraud Prevention, Paul Davis:
  • Dating sites can be a great way to meet people – but remain suspicious and don’t give personal information away to someone you’ve never met in person.
  • Discussing relationships can be embarrassing – but it can make all the difference when it comes to fraud. Get friendly, impartial advice about your online connection from someone close by, who can help you spot holes in a dating site user’s story that you hadn’t thought of yourself.
  • If the conversation turns to money, then it’s time to stop.
  • Fraudsters concoct elaborate and emotive stories to lure people in; so be suspicious of people accounting for their absence or trying to paint an intricate picture of their working life.
  • Take your time. No matter how good the individual sounds online, it could all be false – don’t get caught up in a story you can’t validate.
  •  
    1 Analysis of TSB customer data in 2022 
    2, 3 UK Finance fraud data, adding H1 2020 to H1 2022. Half year fraud update 2022.pdf (ukfinance.org.uk)
    4  H1 2020 losses were £8.5m, H1 2022 £16.6m Half year fraud update 2022.pdf (ukfinance.org.uk)
    5 TSB customer data calculating average length of relationship in 2021 and 2022 for two-year average. 
    6 Analysis of TSB customer data in 2022
    7 UK Finance data £16.6m lost in H1 2022 Half year fraud update 2022.pdf (ukfinance.org.uk)
 
The information contained in this press release is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.