Published on: 16 January 2024

What are romance scams?

Online dating can be a great way to find your perfect partner. But these apps and websites can be exploited by scammers.

Over time, scammers build online relationships based on trust and do what they can to make people think this is the real thing.

Eventually, they start asking for money. And they use emotional manipulation and exploitation to lure people in.

They claim the money is for anything from medical fees for a sick parent to travel money to come visit you. These are lies. They are not who they say they are.

How big a problem are romance scams?

They are a huge problem for online dating.

UK Finance conducted a survey among those who had started a relationship with someone online within the last 12 months. Almost a third (29%) said that they had been asked to give or lend money to someone they hadn’t met in person. Of those asked to give money, 51% agreed to do so. (source: UK Finance website (opens in a new window)).

According to the UK Finance’s annual fraud report (opens in a new window), a total of £31.3 million was lost to romance scams in 2022. This is up 1% from 2021.

Can we get your money back?

Once the money has been sent, it’s unlikely you’ll get it back. It can even be impossible to recover.

The scammer will often disappear after they get the money. The messages stop, their profile goes away.

If you’ve already sent money, contact us for help straight away. Keep anything that could be used as evidence.

Report fraud

How to keep your money safe

  • Keep your conversations on trustworthy dating apps and websites
    Scammers try to take your interactions outside the big dating apps and websites. They encourage you to use private emails, phone calls and instant messaging. These cannot be easily tracked and are not as secure.

  • Do not let money come into your online relationship
    This includes sending and accepting money. Meet them in person and get to know them. Giving lots of reasons for why they cannot meet up is a warning sign. They’re trying to hide. And if they ask for money, always walk away.

  • Research the people you meet online
    If things start to become serious, it’s OK to look up this person a bit more. Are they on other social network websites? Can you confirm what they’ve told you about where they work or live or what their life circumstances are? You may want to do a reverse image search (opens in a new window) on their photos. Scammers re-use images of other people they find online (source: Action Fraud (opens in a new window)).

  • Run it by friends and family
    Often, scammers will try and make your relationship a secret between the 2 of you. Talk about your relationship with friends and family you trust. They may spot something suspicious.

  • Be wary of how they talk to you
    Scammers often use scripts and work on multiple victims at a time. They avoid using your name and instead use general terms like honey, babe or angel. There may also be inconsistencies in their stories. It’s OK to be suspicious.

  • Never invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice
    Scammers may try to persuade you to make an investment. They’ll try to convince you it’s easy, or guarantee high returns. Don’t be fooled.

  • Don’t forget about our Scam Checker Service
    If you’re ever unsure about a payment you’re making from your Nationwide current account, you can talk to us first. Call us, or visit us in branch, and we’ll tell you if we think it’s a scam or not. This is our Scam Checker Service. Some payments are excluded.

For more useful tips, read Crimestoppers’ guide to spotting a romance scammer.

Download Crimestoppers' romance scams guide - PDF 1.2MB (opens in a new window)

Victim Support

Our partnership with this independent charity supports customers who’ve been a victim of fraud or a scam. They offer a tailored service to meet your individual needs. It’s free, non-judgemental and confidential. And they will help you for as long as you need.

The Nationwide Fraud team will refer you for further support if you need it.

Stop. Challenge. Protect

We're proud to be supporting the industry fraud awareness campaign Take Five, which encourages you to perfect the art of saying NO to criminals by taking five minutes to Stop, Challenge, Protect.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police so it can be difficult to spot scam texts, emails and phone calls. However, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves.

Always remember to challenge if someone contacts you asking for your personal or financial information – be direct and say NO. Saying NO can feel uncomfortable but it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

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