Some of the most common manipulations of trust share similarities with relationship fraud
It was always going to be love, wasn’t it, that would get us in the end? A sharp swipe from the right, the final boss. I read on
about Sarah, 23, who met Tom on a gaming app in the summer of 2020 and started, she says, to “like him a lot”. This was in the early months of lockdown, during those hot, grim days when police patrolled the parks. A few months into their online relationship, Tom admitted he was struggling to buy food and Sarah started sending him money, because she liked him and she didn’t want him to starve. Jobs had dissolved overnight, people were reselling dumbbells for five times the price – everybody was trying to survive.
When Sarah told her friends she’d been giving him cash – about £400 – they decided to investigate and discovered there was no Tom. Instead, the person attached to his email address was a young woman, the same age as Sarah. She was devastated; Sarah was not the only one. This is romance fraud or, rather snappily, “rom-con”, a crime that’s rising due to the cost-of-living crisis. Official figures show almost £90m was lost to romance scams last year, but it’s believed to be much higher – . The
piece describes how scam attempts have increased by 60% in the past six months. This kind of fraud has traditionally been associated with older women, but now everybody’s at risk: 51% of people aged 21 to 30 say they have seen a rise in the number of suspicious messages received on dating sites. ITV reported that Santander has launched a specialist division to combat rom-cons: the Break the Spell team works to “interrupt” customers who have been identified as being at high risk, stepping in when the person could be about to send large amounts of cash. To stop, in the name of love. Sorry.