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Scammers can be experienced in spinning stories to lure in their victims. However, there are some red flags that might help you spot them. These include the following:.

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A failed relationship could give you a broken heart, but it shouldn't leave you out of pocket. Scammers are drawn to dating sites because they know that the people on there are looking to make a personal connection, and they can use this to their advantage.

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Romance fraud - scamming someone out of money by pretending to want a relationship - has been on the rise during lockdown. Organisations warned people to be vigilant ahead of Valentine's Day. In both andthe amount of money lost to romance fraud outstripped that stolen by online shopping fraud, according to Action Fraud, which is the main reporting body in the UK. Victims of romance scams lose money via money transfers, and sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops.

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Some even provide access to their bank or bank card. Fraudsters can be very convincing, using emotive language and stories to manipulate people, for instance saying they need money for medical bills.

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And increasingly, victims are at risk of prosecution as well as having their bank emptied - as it is revealed that some scammers are now asking them to unwittingly launder money for criminal gangs. According to data from Lloyds Bank, people aged 55 to 64 are particularly at risk.

How to spot and avoid romance scams

Like Anna not her real name who is in her 50s and a widow: she became prey to her scammer — who called himself Tim — after meeting him on a dating website, initially using its chat facility before switching to WhatsApp. After a few weeks, Tim told Anna he was travelling to Romania to work on a transport project, and asked her to send money.

Romance fraud often starts on online dating websites but quickly switches to social media or old-fashioned texting, so there is no evidence of the scam. Sometimes the scammer is more subtle than just asking for money, seeking instead to garner personal information, which can later be used to commit identity fraud.

Romance fraud

Many victims do not report romance scams because they are embarrassed or ashamed. But for those who do, there is some recourse. In banks agreed to a voluntary code which said that if someone "has taken reasonable care and has any element of vulnerability" they are more likely to receive a refund. In Anna's case for example, she was able to recover half of what she lost.

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Romance fraudsters 'preying on lonely' in lockdown. Image source, Getty Images.

How to spot and avoid online dating scams

Lockdown loneliness exploited Women often victims. The advice suggests:.

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The Covid pandemic has added to the problem. Money laundering. Identity fraud.

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More on this story. Published 9 November Published 20 October