Romance fraud has been on the rise during lockdown in the UK, as people are increasingly being scammed out of money by others who are pretending to pursue a relationship.
According to a report from UK Finance, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance schemes in 2020 compared to 2019. In total, £68 million was lost to such scams, which was another increase on 2019.
Action Fraud, the main reporting body in the UK, also reported that, in both 2019 and 2020, the amount of money lost to romance fraud outstripped that stolen in online shopping frauds.
According to Pauline Smith, the head of Action Fraud, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the trend.
“The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives, implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen.”
Victims of romance scams lost money via money transfers, or by sending fraudsters gifts and vouchers – some have even provided fraudsters access to their bank account.
It has also been found that romance fraudsters are involving their victims in money laundering schemes for criminal gangs, which means they are subsequently at risk of receiving a prosecution on top of having their bank accounts emptied.
A case in Australia revealed that a woman living in Queensland unwittingly laundered around £83,000 for an organised crime group, despite believing that she was falling in love with a US army officer.
Data from Lloyds Bank indicated that people aged 55-64 are particularly at risk of becoming a victim to romance fraud. Many victims also fail to report romance scams due to feelings of embarrassment or shame.
What should you do if you are being investigated for Romance Fraud or offences arising from it?
We have a team of specialist fraud defence solicitors who have a wealth of combined experienced in handling a wide range of complex and high value fraud matters, including in relation to romance fraud. We can advise individuals at every stage of the criminal justice process, from initial investigations to potential court proceedings.
Amongst our talented team, we have Partner Alan Burcombe, who has handled many high-profile and multi-million-pound frauds. Partner Ravinder Khumra also specialises in all types of complex business and white-collar crime, including Financial Conduct Authority matters.
Contact our serious fraud and business crime solicitors for advice about romance fraud
If you are being accused of committing romance fraud or are concerned about a potential investigation of offences arising from it, get in touch with our expert serious fraud and business crime lawyers for advice and legal representation.