Lloyds bank issues urgent scam warning after woman, 83, loses £20,000 in 18 months | Personal Finance | Finance

Frustrated female senior citizen sitting in her home office staring at her computer screen in confusion with both hands holding her head not knowing w

One pensioner was conned out of £20,000 in the space of 18 months (Image: Getty)

Britons have been issued an urgent scam warning after one pensioner was conned out of £20,000 in the space of 18 months.

David (name has been changed for anonymity) from Oldham shared his sister’s experience of falling victim to romance fraud to help prevent others from being manipulated into sending money to scammers online.

The number of people falling victim to romance scams increased by a fifth (22 percent) in 2023, compared to 2022, with the overall average amount lost being £6,937, according to the latest data from Lloyds Bank.

With romance scams, fraudsters target those looking for love, often using fake photos and information on social media and online dating apps to lure in potential victims.

David’s sister, Alice, who was 81 when this began, thought she had fallen in love with a man she met via an online Scrabble game. The pair initially got on well and seemed to have a lot in common.

Sign above the entrance to a branch of Lloyds Bank

Fraudsters use fake photos and information on social media to lure in potential victims (Image: Getty)

He requested they move the chat to an external platform where the relationship got more intense and the requests for money began.

David explained to Greater Manchester Police that Alice had lost her husband a few years earlier and she often felt lonely, especially during the winter months, despite having family and a close circle of friends.

David said: “My sister sent over £20,000 to scammers over 18 months, and I think if my wife and I hadn’t been there to help her, eventually they would have cleaned her out.

“The scammers are very clever; they target things like online scrabble because they know this is a place where they’ll find older women with a bit of money.

Senior man reading touching letter from friend, notification about increased healthcare costs, bad medical test results, hight utility bill. Elderly m

As the relationship got more intense, the requests for money began (Image: Getty)

“And it always goes the same way, where the scammer starts off by building a relationship and then claims they haven’t got access to their bank card and need a bit of money and will pay you back.

“My sister believed she was dating a 60-year-old millionaire in the United States who was promising to come over and look after her and give her a second chance at love. It was all a lie.”

Alice felt like she shared a connection with the fraudster – who described himself as a Christian, a widow like herself and a father. He seemed to understand her and was interested in her life and Alice thought she was in love.

These scams can last long periods of time, as the fraudster builds a trusting relationship with their victim, showering them with affection and attentiveness.

However, the scammer will have numerous – and often increasingly implausible – excuses for why they can’t meet in person or show their face on video calls. Common excuses involve working away in the armed forces or in international aid and charity work.

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Lloyds data found that when looking at the age of people who had fallen victim, men and women aged between 55 and 64 were most likely to be tricked by fraudsters masquerading as love interests, as the number of cases amongst this age group rose by almost 49 percent compared to 2022.

However, it is those aged between 65 and 74 who lost the most money, giving romance scammers an average £13,123, the highest amount of any age group.

Alice would ask to speak to the scammer on the phone and there was always an excuse as to why he was unavailable – he’d say ‘babe, I’m travelling’, or ‘babe I’m doing this I’ll catch you later’. And he’d never use Alice’s name, it was always ‘babe’, ‘sweetie’, ‘queen’ or ‘hunny’ because they have so many on the go that they don’t want to risk using the wrong name.

David hopes other victims will learn from his sister’s story, realise they are being scammed and will report to Action Fraud. Likewise, he hopes friends and families of victims will be able to spot the signs that something is wrong.

He said: “Everyone should be suspicious if someone they don’t know contacts them online. I dread to think what could have happened if my wife and I weren’t there for Alice – the scammers could have drained her account and left her with nothing.

“The photos and videos that my sister received seemed genuine, but I found out how to do a reverse image search and was able to show her they were all fake.

“It makes me really angry because they’ve deliberately targeted someone who is elderly and vulnerable, but I hope that by speaking out this will help protect other victims.”

Liz Ziegler, Fraud Prevention Director at Lloyds Bank said: “Social media and online dating apps are rife with fake profiles, and it can be hard to tell who is genuine. Remember that no good relationship starts off by sending money to someone you haven’t met and this should be a big red flag.

“As soon as someone you’re talking to starts asking for money online, step back from the situation and never hand anything over. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”

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