Romance scams

The victim of a romance scam becomes convinced that a personal relationship developed online with a fraudster is real, leaving themselves vulnerable to requests by the scammer for money or personal information.

And the threat is expanded if the victim is an employee because the fraudster can use his or her relationship with the victim to steal company funds or access confidential data.

At work, some behavioural traits a romance fraud victim might display include:

  • unusual irritability
  • suspiciousness
  • defensiveness

James Turley, fraud education and awareness lead with NatWest Group, says: “Fraudsters are very convincing, and they know their victims extremely well after months of communication, seduction, and courting. Not only are the victim’s own money and data at risk, but the company they work for could also become a target for the scammer, using the victim as an unwitting accomplice inside the organisation."

Businesses should be aware that this type of cybercrime can affect anyone in their workforce, including management. Everyone should be familiar with the warning signs, and measures should be put in place to counter the threat.

James Turley
Fraud education and awareness lead with NatWest Group

How to reduce the risks to your company

Educate employees

Identify behavioural traits that suggest that a colleague may have fallen victim to a romance scam. Make employees aware of the different types of fraud and set up an internal fraud reporting system.


Have strict financial controls

Implement the ‘four-eyes’ principle to ensure the employee who initiates a payment is not the one who authorises it. Also, make sure bank statements are checked regularly by a third employee for any irregularities.


Monitor holiday balances

Employees should have mandatory, two-week holidays to help colleagues detect any suspicious activities.

Romance scams are on the rise, as more and more people use online dating apps and websites to find romantic partners.


These scams became more prominent during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when there was a steep increase in people using these sites, according to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cybercrime Reporting Centre.

Action Fraud reports that the total romance scam losses totalled more than £68 million in the UK in 2020 alone.

Romance scammers use language to manipulate their victims so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells. These requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas.

If you suspect that an employee has fallen victim to a romance scam, it’s best to address their behaviour in an open manner, and be careful to avoid victim-shaming, James advises.

Victims of this type of cybercrime have often become emotionally and financially invested in the relationship and will go to great lengths to satisfy the wishes of the fraudster.

It can be very hard to make victims believe that they have been scammed over months, even years, since a strong emotional attachment has been formed. To be told that it’s all a lie is, understandably, very hard for victims to accept. It’s difficult for them to believe that their romantic relationship was actually a fraud.

James Turley
Fraud education and awareness lead with NatWest Group

Learn more about romance scams and other cybercrimes by visiting Action Fraud, or read about how our Customer Protection Team is helping keep customers safe from romance scams.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

scroll to top