Online dating fraud up 40% during pandemic


Online dating fraud increased 40% in the year through April 2021, with more than 7,500 incidents reported.

Action Fraud data analyzed by Which? shows that around £ 73.9million in losses have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

As three national blocks made it difficult to meet other singles in person, more and more users turned to online dating.

On March 29, 2020, Tinder recorded 3 billion swipes worldwide, the most the app has ever recorded in a single day, according to the BBC.

Which? described scams as a “sophisticated type of fraud”, with con artists masquerading as someone else and taking advantage of a victim’s “emotional vulnerability” before asking for money.

Although cat fishing is not a crime in the UK, it does become a misdemeanor if a catfish asks for money.

In most cases, the perpetrators are based overseas and seek the funds to allegedly travel to the UK to be with the victim.

A victim, who has not been identified, had exchanged messages with a supposed Russian woman she met on the dating site “Older Dating Online”.

After a few weeks she asked for £ 650 to get a passport to come to the UK.

She then asked for an additional £ 3,000 which she said would prove to Russian authorities that she had enough money to travel to the UK.

“I became suspicious and contacted my bank to report the scam, but the money could not be recovered,” said the victim.

“I haven’t dated at all since the scam. I am not one of those who exude confidence in this area and with Covid-19 rearing its ugly head, more traditional means have not been possible.

“I didn’t report what happened to the website. Probably at the time for the reason I assumed it was my fault that they were duped, not their fault for existing, ”he added.

Some crooks also use sophisticated technology to trick potential victims.

One woman said she had a “strange video call” with someone, only to later realize she had used stolen video footage from a plastic surgeon in the United States.

“How they did it, I have no idea because I found out that these photos were of a plastic surgeon in the United States. It worries me that some women fall into the trap, ”she said.

Many victims tried to recover the money from their bank. Under the UK’s Contingent Reimbursment Model Code, victims of wire transfer scams should be reimbursed for losses when not at fault.

Although most banks signed the code, 38% of all losses went to victims of dating fraud in 2020. Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which? likened the code to a “victim refund lottery”.

“Romance scams are particularly devastating for victims, who can be vulnerable when targeted by fraudsters – and it is very disturbing to see such a large increase in these scams as criminals seek to exploit the pandemic,” he said. he declared.

“The voluntary code on scams has led to a reimbursement lottery for victims. It should be replaced by mandatory protection and reimbursement standards and strict enforcement for companies that do not follow the rules, ”he added.

French said anyone having trouble getting their money back from their bank can report the case to the Financial Ombudsman Service for review.

If a fraudster has stolen your money, report it to Action Fraud using the online fraud reporting tool or by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You must also notify your bank.

Being a victim of fraud can have a huge impact on your mental health, so be sure to talk to someone to get the support you need. Charity Victim Support offers free and confidential telephone assistance available on 0808 16 89 111 (lines open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Mind also has a helpline, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday).

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