Breaking Hearts and Banks: The Dark Side of Valentine's Day

14 February 2023

Valentine’s Day is upon us and for many it’s a day of celebration; those without a date, however, may find themselves braving the scary world of online dating in an effort to find ‘the one’. This is not without risk, however; according to a recent report by Lloyds Banking Group, romance scams are on the rise, having increased by 30% in 2022. While this is alarming, it comes as no surprise given that scammers are able to target an increasing pool of people across dating apps and social media; the former, for example, had an estimated 366 million users as of last year. Significantly, scammers’ efforts have also been facilitated by the ease with which they can profile and research their victim, allowing them to target the victim more effectively.

It has been reported that victims of romance fraud lost an average of £8,234 last year. While this is a significant financial loss in itself, against the backdrop of a cost of living crisis the impacts are more damaging than ever before. Significantly, men are increasingly finding themselves falling victim to romance scams as they now account for 53% of victims, up from 39% in 2021. These scams are also disproportionately affecting those aged between 65 and 74, with victims in this age group losing approximately 50% more than the average victim.

You might be thinking about what this means for you. As a leader in the fight against financial crime, here at Themis we want to normalise the importance of due diligence in daily life. We help companies apply due diligence when it comes to business, assessing the risks and potential red flags for them before they jump into something new and we recommend you do the same in dating by keeping an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Profile pictures that appear professional or ‘model-like’ and/or a reluctance to appear on camera or meet in person. The first and most important step before you trust anyone is to confirm who they are. Is it a real account? If it’s linked to a brand new Instagram account, ask yourself why. If they have lots of followers, run a check and see how many are real;
  • A sudden online romance with someone who seems a perfect match. Take it slowly, especially if it seems too good to be true;
  • Quickly moving the conversation to a different platform or app. Question why they are so eager to move to another platform when they could continue contacting you via the dating app;
  • Requests for personal information (this can be sold or used against you!) or financial support, whatever the story or amounts.

As an individual, it is important to not be clouded by the prospect of love and to remain vigilant when getting to know your love interest. Themis Search is a screening tool that can be utilised to vet your prospective date and minimise your chance of being swindled of love or even money. A quick search of their name reveals, though hopefully not, any criminal convictions, sanctions, or adverse media against them.

If you help run a dating app, Themis Search is a valuable tool that can be implemented into your platform to screen users for involvement in financial or related crimes. By doing so, it minimises the chance of love-seekers falling for fraud-seekers and strengthens your app’s chance to be a cupid for lucky pairs.

The risk map below was made via Themis Search and reveals the law enforcement that has been reported against two romance fraudsters. With a quick name search of Fredrick Diji, it revealed his lead involvement in a 16 year fraud scheme involving 80 victims and a total of £400,000 that was scammed out of the victims’ pockets. He worked with Raquel Johnson, initiating contact with his victims on dating apps by using fake profiles and texting and calling them, leading his victims to believe they were involved with a genuine person. By ‘love bombing’ his victims, he quickly built up rapports and would soon after request money for a variety of false reasons. He would provide fraudulent evidence that legitimised his stories and promised the victims that the loaned money would be reimbursed.

Lambeth-based Diji was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment alongside his co-defendant Johhson who was sentenced to three years and nine months in December 2022. This case is just one example of the financial impact romance scams can have on the lives of love hopefuls and exemplifies the importance of conducting a simple due diligence check of your next date.

Be diligent and know that at Themis, we are here to help you protect yourself against financial crime.

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