Hundreds fell victim to romance scams in Lithuania last year - BNS THEME

  • 2024-02-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Hundreds of people in Lithuania fell victim to romantic scams last year.

Banks estimate that people tried to transfer more than a million euros to scammers, however, some of these transactions were stopped.

Experts say lonely people and those lacking digital hygiene skills were the most vulnerable. 

According to data from the Center of Excellence in Anti-Money Laundering, released on Tuesday by the Association of Lithuania Banks, some 350 cases of romance scam were recorded in Lithuania last year, and victims made attempts to transfer more than 1 million euros to fraudsters.

"According to data provided to BNS by Swedbank, 148 of its client were victims of romance scammers last year as they were looking for romantic relationships online. And they lost more than 300,000 euros.

SEB Bank says 45 of its customers were affected last year, losing 154,000 euros.

Luminor estimates that romance scams swindled 380,000 euros last year, and Siauliu Bankas 

customers lost around 73,000 euros in 2023.

Banks say not all the money swindled by fraudsters is recovered, especially when people delay in contacting the banks themselves.

"Romance scams are a delicate issue and people who realize they have been duped by a romance scammer are more likely to feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, and some may deny it and not approach the bank at all. Such cases are more often than not unrecorded in the statistics," Daiva Uosyte, head of the Prevention Department at SEB Bank, told BNS.

She says banks have no right to turn to law enforcement institutions as only the affected customers can do so if they realize to have fallen victim to fraud, and people are urged to be vigilant.

Aina Adomaityte, president of the Lithuanian Union of Psychologists, says a strong feeling of loneliness is the main reason why people fall victim to romantic scammers.

"Everybody wants to be important to someone, to give and receive attention and care. People are afraid of the feeling of loneliness and often, in the case of a scam, they had already been lonely for a long time, so the resulting contact seems to be very strong and they become fully immersed in the creation of a new relationship, so rationality and critical thinking disappear," the psychologist said.

According to Siauliu Bankas, elder women looking to meet new people on social media are the most frequent victims of romantic scams.

"They become interested in military officers and sailors who are impersonated by scammers," Saulius Jarmalis, head of communication at Siauliu Bankas, told BNS.

Bank representatives warn that requests for money are the red flag that a person one met online may be a fraudster. Therefore, the best preventive measure is to make sure that publicly available information does not create conditions for fraudsters to gain a person's trust.