‘Too good to be true?’ Nationwide warns customers about convincing scam

Woman recalls being scammed by an online shopping site

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The building society is warning that around three in 10 people in the UK who feel lonely are at risk of falling victim to romance scams. This particular type of fraud involves people striking up online relationships, which never leads to them meeting their partner, in which they are conned out of their hard-earned cash. Due to the pandemic and social distancing, more and more people are being marked by romance fraudsters, according to Nationwide.

Specifically, young people have become increasingly isolated and lonely in the past two years which has led them to turn to online dating, making them most at risk.

In a recently published survey by the building society, it was revealed that four in ten people aged 18 to 34 believe their mental situation is leaving them prone to this type of scam.

Some 25 percent of young people polled by Nationwide, who have experienced loneliness or social isolation at least once a week, have been targeted by a scam.

In comparison, the average across the UK is 21 percent. Out of those who admitted to being a victim, eight percent said it was a romance scam.

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As a result of this, Nationwide has launched a Scam Checker Service, which is available to customers over the phone or at their local branch.

Ed Fisher, the head of Fraud Policy at Nationwide Building Society, outlined how these romance scams operate and how customers can avoid falling victim to fraudsters in the future.

Mr Fisher explained: “Loneliness is often invisible and isn’t only felt by older people or those who may have lost someone close.

“In fact, our research demonstrates that young people can be even more susceptible to these feelings.

“While making human connections is essential, particularly where feelings of isolation are involved, there is unfortunately a minority of people out there that will take advantage.

“People should be aware of the tell-tale signs of a romance scam and be prepared to step away if necessary.

“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.

“People looking for love need to protect their wallet as well as their hearts by looking out for any warning signs, doing their own background checks, and talking about their relationships with other friends and family, who have their best interests at heart.”

Matt Bradford, the temporary detective chief superintendent from the City of London Police, shared what he has witnessed in reports of this particular scam case.

He added: “Typically, romance fraudsters will spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust, feeding them fabricated stories about who they are and their lives – and initially make no suggestion of any desire to ask for any money, so the victim may believe their new love interest is genuine.

“But weeks, or sometimes months later, these criminals will ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons and as the emotional relationship has already been formed, victims often transfer money without a second thought.

“We’re calling on family members who think their relatives may be dating online to help make them aware of the warning signs that they could be falling victim to fraud, particularly if the person dating online is not particularly tech savvy.”

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