BioCatch has shared guidance for protecting vulnerable banking customers from modern-day romance scams.  Scams have undergone a significant evolution in recent years, adjusting to the dynamics of our digital existence, and evolving with our communication preferences and channels. They have also diversified significantly expanding beyond traditional forms to encompass a wider array of deceptive tactics.

In a romance scam, the victim is convinced to transfer funds to an individual they believe they are romantically involved with. Scammers create fraudulent profiles to focus on potential victims, initiating a connection that they aim to nurture over an extended period of time. After gaining the trust of their target, the scammer will feign a predicament and request financial assistance. Regardless of the context, these deceitful schemes can have severe and distressing consequences for victims, impacting them both financially and emotionally.

Romance Scams rose 26% in the first half of 2023

UK Finance reports 26% surge in romance scams during the initial half of 2023, leading to a loss of £18.5m for consumers. Individuals ensnared in scams initiated during the UK’s Covid lockdown may only be coming to terms with their victimisation now, as each case averages nearly nine fraudulent payments, usually made over a long period of time.

According to BioCatch data, financial scam cases surged by 19% globally in 2023. Notably, North America witnessed a 183% spike, while the Asia Pacific region also experienced a substantial increase of 104%. 

Insights reveal that phone calls (61%) and text messages (58%) emerged as the most prevalent scam communication channels. Notably, scammers predominantly utilised Facebook and WhatsApp as their platforms of choice. And alarmingly, only 59% of victims reported the scams to law enforcement. 

The challenge lies in the intricacies of romance scams, which are notoriously elusive to detect and prevent. Victims often find themselves fully immersed with the scammer’s made-up persona, so everything appears normal. They use their regular devices for transactions, they are in their usual locations, and everything seems plausible according to traditional banking controls that look at basic data points.

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By GlobalData

Tracy Kitten, Director of Fraud and Security at Javelin Strategy & Research, said: “The first crucial step in scam education is to make it abundantly clear that victims are not to blame in order to encourage more prolific reporting of these crimes. When it comes to romance scams, or any scam for that matter, banks need to play a critical role in consumer education and protection. This starts with banks understanding the habits of different demographics, how criminals target them, and then helping their customers recognise the risky activities that make them vulnerable.”