Scam watch: Fraudsters turn to romance to con victims

14 February 2018

NatWest has issued a Valentine’s Day warning against scammers who use emotional manipulation to defraud people.

The bank says that romantic scams are one of the common ways fraudsters prey on their victims and are telling customers to be extra vigilant this Valentine’s Day.

A typical romantic scam involves the use of flattery to manipulate a victim and coerce them into doing something they otherwise wouldn’t. This can include providing banking and other sensitive information to the scammer.

An experiment conducted by the bank placed actors into a real-life speed dating event. It found that people would happily give away personal information such as the name of their first pet, their birthplace and their mother’s maiden name. Some of this information could be used to hack online banking and other password-protected services.

In this dating environment, people tried to have an open personality, but this could lead to them unwittingly giving up personal data.

Other types of emotional fraud that are commonly found in the UK include holiday scams. In these cases, fraudsters use our excitement about going away to charge over the odds or mis-sell holiday bookings.

Payment scams also pose a risk to consumers, as they prey on a person’s natural desire to get the best deal. Scammers ask for payment for goods and services which never materialise.

Jane Howard, managing director of personal banking at NatWest, says: “Financial fraud is now the most common crime in the UK.

“In order to protect yourself from falling victim to a scam, people should remain vigilant when browsing online or receiving an out of the blue phone call. Listen to your instincts and don’t be pressured into making a payment.”

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