LAST UPDATE: 16/11/2023
Many people seek love and companionship online. But it’s not without risk. Romance scams are but one of many common types of cyber frauds. The scammers gain the trust of their victims, even making them believe they are in a romantic relationship and persuade them to elicit money transfers or bank account details. After the deception, they disappear leaving their prey in a difficult financial situation.
A romance scam is a cyber crime committed on social networks and dating apps. Scammers create fake profiles to contact victims and gain their trust, using the anonymity the Internet affords them, smooth talking and false promises to make people feel a romantic connection with them. Time goes by, and they ask their victim for money, saying it’s an emergency or alleging money issues or health problems. But once they get hold of the money, they're gone, without a trace, to prey on someone else.
In the UK, about a third of Britons (31%) have been caught in a romance scam, according to research by Santander UK. Also, according to UK Finance, romance scams increased nationwide in 2022, costing victims 31.3 million pounds (up from 17.8 million in 2020). In response, Santander UK is running a new campaign called “Love Hurts” to spread awareness about romance scamming.
Romance scamming is nothing new; but it’s got more sophisticated with widespread access to the Internet. Before, scammers used to lurk in online forums, chat rooms and by email to dupe others into giving them money. Now, they've become more sophisticated and even formed large organizations, armed with social media profiles, adulterated photographs and identity theft. Scams mainly rely on social engineering.
How to spot and avoid a romance scam
Spotting the warning signs is key to avoid falling victim to a romance scam and to protect your finances. Here are some of the things to look out for:
What to do if you spot a romance scam
Here are some tips you should follow if you think you’ve been the target of a romance scam.
Santander against fraud
Santander’s cybersecurity team prioritizes protecting our customers from fraud. We constantly invest in fraud protection technology and run initiatives to help customers and broader society stay safe online. We've launched ‘Cyber Heroes’, an interactive training tool available in Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Spain and the UK, to boost customers’ and the general public’s knowledge of online safety.