What’s love worth? The financial consequences of romance fraud

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When COVID pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, the notion of dating changed. According to the Online Dating Association, more than 2.3 million people across Britain turned to online dating platforms to “meet” potential partners during the first lockdown. Although far from a new phenomenon, when framed within the context of restrictions imposed to discourage people from engaging with others face-to-face, it has become a lucrative tool for scam artists to exploit for their financial gain.

“Romance fraud” as it has been dubbed, involves the fraudster creating an account on dating websites/social media and purporting to be someone else. From there, they make connections with a number of people and often run the scams alongside one another. More often than not, the victims are women who, according to Action Fraud, make up 63% of the total victims for this crime. The criminal then spends months building up trust with the victim and convincing them that they are in a genuine relationship. During that time, they introduce manipulation and persuasion so that when they make the first request for money, the victim does not realise that they are involved in a scam.

The harsh reality of romance fraud is that once the fraudster has exhausted the victim’s funds, they cut all contact and are often untraceable. This leaves the person heartbroken and conscious of the crippling debt they are left in. In a recent article, a woman from Wolverhampton tells of her romance fraud story and how it has left her in nearly £113,000 worth of debt and considering bankruptcy. She is just one example of many who have fallen victim to this devastating scam and now her livelihood is at stake given that she may have to declare bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is the one of the main individual insolvency procedures used in England and Wales. It’s governed by Part 4 of the Insolvency Act 1986 which provides that an application for bankruptcy may be made by the person themselves or a creditor to whom the individual owes money. As with all insolvency procedures, the individual must show that they are unable to pay their debts. As in the case discussed above, if the individual has racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt, arguably through no fault of their own, then bankruptcy may be sought to ensure that the individual cannot incur further debt. However, filing for bankruptcy can have lasting consequences long after the bankruptcy itself has ended. These may include difficulty securing loans in the future, or even losing a home or a job.

As such, if you find yourself in financial distress, you should seek legal advice to determine whether bankruptcy is the most suitable option to resolve your issues, especially following a highly emotive and possibly traumatising experience such as romance fraud.

Having read this article and if the key indicators above ring true for a situation that you or someone you know is currently in, then it is strongly advised that you cease contact with the person and do not transfer money or share any personal information with them. However, if you have already taken that step and are struggling financially or considering bankruptcy, then please contact a member of our team who may be able to help.