Online dating fraud in the UK cost victims a heart-breaking £27 million last year, according to the latest stats from Get Safe Online and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) .
Over 2,700 online dating related crimes were reported to the police over 12 months with the average loss standing at £10,000. However, the actual number of crimes is thought to be considerably higher, with victims not reporting them owing to embarrassment.
Almost two thirds (62%) of all victims are aged between 40-69 accounting for £16 million of the total losses. People aged between 50-59 are the most likely victims accounting for a quarter of all frauds and losing just over £6 million. Although those aged between 40-49 accounted for less of the reported fraud, (22%) overall losses were greater at £8 million.
Almost two thirds (64%) of all romance scams originated on dating sites, followed by social media (25%) and 10% via email. 2% of reported dating frauds originated via contact made on dating apps.
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online commented: “Online dating can be a great way to meet that special someone. However, it doesn’t hurt to place a little more caution when using these sites to start talking to someone, just as you would if you met a stranger in a bar or at a party.
“What’s frustrating is that there are a minority of people who use online dating as a forum to target vulnerable people, knowing if they invest a lot of time into building a relationship with someone, they could potentially steal a lot of money. This is demonstrated by the huge amount lost to online dating related crimes last year, with the average loss standing at a worrying £10,000.
“The financial loss is one thing, but it’s the emotional impact this sort of crime has which is severe. When someone places a lot of trust and faith in a person who they think they know, they often don’t separate their emotional feelings from rationale. Often when victims do start to suspect something isn’t quite right, they’re already in deep, so it’s extremely easy to ignore those little niggles of doubt and choose to trust someone – it’s this factor which online criminals exploit.
“It’s important to remember that it’s highly unlikely anyone legitimate would ask for any kind of financial assistance for whatever reason. Plus, if there are any immediate doubts, speak to a family member or friend to get a second, more objective opinion. If someone is keen to take their contact off the dating site very quickly, this could be a sign that they have something to hide.
“By following these steps, we hope we can put a stop to this targeted and emotional form of online crime.”