The number of people falling victim to romance scams increased by a fifth (22 percent) in 2023, compared to 2022, according to the bank.
Overall, the average amount lost to romance scams was £6,937, less than in 2022 (£8,237).
Lloyds Bank described romance scams as “cruel and very personal scams”, which see fraudsters target those looking for love, often using fake photos and information on social media and online dating apps to lure in potential victims.
These scams can last long periods of time as the fraudster builds a trusting relationship with their victim.
However, the scammer will usually provide multiple excuses, often becoming more implausible, to avoid meeting in person or appearing on video calls. Common excuses include claiming to be working abroad in the armed forces or engaging in international aid and charity work.
Eventually, the scammers will ask for money, often citing family issues, medical bills, or the need for funds to arrange travel to meet the victim. The requests may begin with small amounts and gradually escalate.
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank commented: “Targeting those looking for love is a cruel, but sadly common, way for fraudsters to cash in. Scammers can be incredibly convincing and leave their victims both emotionally and financially drained. Social media and online dating apps are rife with fake profiles, and it can be hard to tell who is genuine.
“Remember that no good relationship starts by sending money to someone you haven’t met and this should be a big red flag.”
Ms Ziegler added: “As soon as someone you’re talking to starts asking for money, step back from the situation and never hand anything over. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”
Men were slightly more likely to succumb to a romance scam in 2023, making up 52 percent of cases, Lloyds data shows.
When women do fall victim to a romance scammer, they tend to report higher losses at an average £9,083, compared to an average £5,145 lost by men.
When looking at the age of people who had fallen victim, men and women aged between 55 and 64 were most likely to be tricked by fraudsters masquerading as love interests, as the number of cases amongst this age group rose by almost 49 percent compared to 2022.
However, it is those aged between 65 and 74 who lose the most money, giving romance scammers an average of £13,123, the highest amount of any age group.
What can you do to prevent falling victim to a romance scam?
Lloyds Bank has shared six tips to help people avoid falling victim to romance scams, including:
- Be cautious of strangers getting in contact through social media
- Look out for profile photos that look professional or ‘model-like
- People should speak to someone who knows them well to get their point of view
- Never send money to a stranger, no matter how well a person thinks they know them online
- Be very wary when someone has endless excuses about why they can’t meet in person
- Never give out personal or financial details.