Action Fraud has revealed £50.7m was lost to romance fraud in 2018 – an average of £11,145 per victim and a 27 per cent increase on the previous year.
Action Fraud's data showed the growing scale of romance fraud, which happens when a person thinks they have met the perfect partner through an online dating website, app, or through social media, but in fact they are dealing with a fraudster using a fake profile to form a relationship with them.
They will gain the person’s trust and ask for money or enough personal information to steal the victim's identity.
The data from Action Fraud came after last week the FCA warned investors about the growing threat posed by investment scammers, after £197m of investment scam losses were reported last year.
The warning came after data from its Action Fraud unit found investment scam victims were losing £29,000 each on average, with fraudsters increasingly using social media to target people.
The most common investment scams reported involved shares and bonds, forex and cryptocurrencies and tax year-end scams, with the FCA warning tax year end represented ‘peak season’ for investment scammers.
Head of the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Department, Commander Karen Baxter, said: "As cases of romance fraud increase each year, so too does the cost to victims, both emotionally and financially. The emotional damage of falling victim to romance fraud can often be far more difficult to come to terms with.
"Heartless fraudsters are cruelly targeting vulnerable victims and exploiting those looking for love online.
"Together with our partners, we are urging people to spot the signs of romance fraud and to follow the 'Date Safe' advice this Valentine's Day and in the future."
Financial abuse safeguarding officer for Sussex and Surrey Police, Bernadette Lawrie, said romance fraud accounts for 10 per cent of all vulnerable victim fraud reports across our counties and is one of the most despicable crimes we see.
She said: "Victims are targeted and exploited when they are at their most vulnerable and the complex tactics and deceitful tales that lure the victims into parting with such huge sums of money are quite astonishing."
Tips on how to avoid a #fauxmance
- Don't rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term 'dating scam' into your search engine.
- Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
- Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you've met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you've been speaking to them.
- Stay on the dating site messenger service until you're confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you're going to be.