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Warning after huge rise in number of men being romance scammed

Reports of men becoming victims of romance scams has increased massively, new figures suggest.

Male victims jumped by 40% between 2022 and 2023, according to Britain’s biggest building society.

Romance-cons can mean big payouts for fraudsters, which is why they may spend weeks – or even months – “grooming” their victim before asking for money.

In one case seen by Nationwide, a customer met someone via social media who claimed to be serving in the United States military and also to have sent expensive gifts to Nationwide’s customer.

The customer was told that these would be held until taxes and customs fees were paid.

The customer sent a payment of £7,000 but the “courier” delivering the packages contacted them and said police had seized the gifts and further payments were required.

The scam was reported by a family member.

Signs of a romance scam

Here are some red flag reminders from HSBC UK for warning signs to look out for when dating online:

1. Rapid emotional attachment

While some scammers may take their time, others may try to progress relationships very quickly online.

2. Avoiding meeting face-to-face

Scammers often avoid in-person interactions. Be cautious if your online date consistently makes excuses to meet or delays face-to-face encounters.

3. Asking for money

Scammers may fabricate emergencies or hardships to manipulate your emotions. Do not send money to someone you’ve only met online.

4. Being encouraged to lie to your bank

A scammer will often ask you to lie to your bank to give them a better chance of the payment not causing suspicion. Scammers will often coach their victim in how to respond to questions that may be asked. But telling the truth gives the bank the best chance of protecting your money – and you receiving money back if you do end up being the victim of a scam.

5. Inconsistencies in what you are told

Pay attention to the information shared. Scammers may use different personas across different victims, with conflicting details.

6. Refusal to video chat

If your online connection consistently avoids video interactions, it could be a red flag.

7. High-pressure tactics

Scammers often use urgency or emotional manipulation to pressure victims into quick decisions. Take your time and remain sceptical of requests that seem overly urgent.

8. Unrealistic photos

Be cautious if the person’s online photos appear overly-polished or seem too good to be true. Scammers often use stolen images from other profiles.

9. Being asked for a lot of personal information

It’s natural for people starting a relationship to want to get to know each other better – but scammers will be after your information in addition to your money. Avoid sharing sensitive information, such as your address or financial details, with someone you’ve only met online.

10. Feeling caught up in the romance

Stay vigilant, trust your instincts and verify information to protect yourself from falling victim to romance scams. You could also sound out friends and family members to get a second opinion from people you trust.

Nationwide, which analysed its own data, said there was a small 2% drop in scams involving female victims.

One in five (20%) romance fraud cases reported to Nationwide Building Society by men in 2023 involved victims aged 20 to 30.

According to Nationwide’s data, women are more likely to lose more than men, with the average 2023 claim for women standing at £10,610, compared with an average of £8,181 for men.

The society is encouraging customers concerned about a payment to use its scam checker service before parting with any money.

If the payment goes ahead and the customer is subsequently scammed, unless Nationwide told the customer not to proceed, they will be fully reimbursed.

Jim Winters, Nationwide’s director of economic crime, said: “Criminals can be very convincing and persuasive enough to get someone looking for love or feeling lonely to give them their trust, personal details and ultimately their money, even when they haven’t actually met each other in person.

“Our data shows all ages can be a target of romance scams as criminals will cast their net far and wide to stand the best chance of snaring a victim.”

Nationwide warned that fraudsters will try to move interactions away from dating apps and websites. They may encourage people to use private emails, phone calls and instant messaging, that cannot be easily tracked.

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