Don’t let scammers break your heart and your bank, as Santander stops customers handing over £5 million to fraudsters last year

Santander’s ‘Break The Spell’ team prevented customers from handing over £5.2 million to scammers last year, bringing the total amount saved to £13.7 million since launching in 2021. Today’s figures come as the bank warns customers to be guarded against Valentine’s Day scams.

The ‘Break The Spell’ team works with customers to help them understand that they are getting scammed. Based in Liverpool, the team tackles a variety of scams, such as rogue trader and investment scams, but the most common scams the team tackle are romance scams.

For some customers, cases can be resolved within a day or week. In more extreme cases, where customers have been heavily socially engineered by fraudsters, the team can spend months helping a customer realise that the person they have been speaking to and trust, is in fact a criminal trying to scam them. The team primarily speaks with customers over the phone, but also face-to-face in branch if needed.

Romance scams are when victims are tricked into sending their money to a criminal who goes to great lengths to win their trust and convince them that they are in a real relationship. Research from Santander last year found almost a third (31%) of Brits have been targeted by a romance scammer.

UK Finance data shows across the UK in 2022 some £31.3 million was lost to romance scams, up from £30.9 million in 2021, and up from £17.8 million in 2020.

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Risk Management at Santander said: “While Santander is here to support our customers in the fight against fraudsters, there is no guarantee stolen money can be recovered and the mental impact of falling victim to a scam is long-lasting.

“Valentine’s Day is a good time to remind people to be especially mindful of romance scams, as there are no hooks criminals won’t use to try and con people out of their hard-earned money.

“The best thing any customer can do to protect themselves is to know the telltale signs of a scam, never handover any money if something doesn’t feel right, and to sense check any concerns with your bank or a trusted family member.”

Top tips on avoiding a romance scam include:

  • Online friendships are based on profiles, not what you know for a fact. It is important to check if the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. For example, you can check if profile photos are genuine by performing a reverse image search on a web search engine. This can find photos that have been taken from someone else.
  • Be on red alert if someone you’ve only met online asks you to lend them money, no matter how plausible or urgent their reason might seem. Try to remove the emotion from your decision-making and talk it through with someone else.
  • And never lie to your bank if they ask you questions about a payment you are making. We know the signs to look out for and our questions are there to help protect you.

For more information about how to detect scammers visit Santander’s website.

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Notes to Editors

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. At 31 December 2023, the bank had around 19,800 employees and serves around 14 million active customers, 7 million digital customers via a nationwide 444 branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the FCA and the PRA in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the FSCS in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful presence in 10 core markets in the Europe, North America and South America regions, and is one of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. Santander aims to be the best open financial services platform providing services to individuals, SMEs, corporates, financial institutions and governments. The bank’s purpose is to help people and businesses prosper in a simple, personal and fair way. Santander is building a more responsible bank and has made a number of commitments to support this objective, including raising €220 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2030. At the end of 2023, Banco Santander had €1.3 trillion in total funds, 165 million customers, 8,500 branches and over 212,000 employees.