Romance scam victims make payments over two months on average, bank finds

Female customers made up two-thirds of the cases and the average victim was aged 47, according to TSB.
Female customers made up two-thirds of the cases and the average victim was aged 47, according to TSB.

Victims of romance fraud make payments to criminals over two months on average, analysis by a bank has found.

TSB, which released the findings ahead of Valentine’s Day on February 14, said payments are made over 62 days typically.

Female customers made up two-thirds (66%) of the cases it analysed.

TSB has refunded victims ranging from 18 years old to 77. The average age of victims is 47.

Repeated transactions within romance fraud “relationships” are a core component of these scams. Often, fraudsters will invent a “sob story” for why they need money urgently.

In one case seen by the bank, a customer was convinced she was talking to a soldier stuck overseas who claimed he needed money to get home for Christmas.

She sent six payments amounting to £1,200 – and realised she had been scammed just four days before Christmas.

Another case lasted nearly two years after a female customer was approached on Instagram and carried on conversing via WhatsApp.

The fraudster shared emotive stories to support his need for cash, including ones concerning police bail, hotel fees and flights.

Overall, the female victim made 36 payments, amounting to £40,000, which TSB said was refunded in full.

TSB also found the longest “relationship” spanned nearly three years and more than one in 10 (11%) lasted over half a year.

The bank said it has refunded 97% of all bank fraud cases generally under its fraud refund guarantee.

Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention, TSB, said: “Dating sites and social media can be a great way of meeting people and staying connected during the pandemic – but they’re also riddled with scammers, hoping to break your heart and your bank balance with cruel and complex tricks.

“When interacting online, it’s important to remain on guard. Don’t put your trust in people you’ve never met in person – and if the conversation ever moves on to money, then it’s time to stop.”

TSB’s data covered the period December 2020 to January 2022.