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Wholesale Banking

Romance scams are also a risk for companies

Love can make people happy, energetic, but also blind. In romance scams, fraudsters deceive their victims by gaining their trust to steal their money. These scams not only harm people but also endanger a company‘s data or money. So, make sure you know how to recognise a romance scam and reduce the risk. 

Anyone can be a victim

Fraudsters operate in large fraud organisations using complex techniques. For these type of scams, they often target victims - both men and women  - who are struggling in a relationship and/or are emotionally vulnerable. Well-educated individuals also have been known to fall for romance scams. So, in general, it can affect anyone.

How romance scams can (also) harm companies

In a romance scam, a fraudster will try to build a relationship with a person over a long(er) period. When they gained enough trust from the victim, they make up a sad story about why they are in urgent need of money. The victim's trust in the fraudster can be built so high, that they not only send their own savings but also money of the company they work for.

At ING, we have noticed that when somebody is a victim of a romance scam, it is hard to make them see that they are being scammed. That is because they have emotionally and financially invested in the relationship. Fraudsters are very convincing, and they know their victims extremely well after months of communication, seduction, and courting.

How to recognise romance scams

As an individual: first, never fully trust a stranger that you have not met face-to-face. Be extremely alert when a person starts asking for money, even if you have met them. Be aware that fraudsters are always looking for ways to steal your or your company's money.

As a company: employees who fall for a romance scam often have behavioural traits that can indicate the intention to commit fraud like unusual irritability, suspiciousness, or defensiveness. Address that behaviour in an open manner and avoid victim-shaming.

How to reduce the risks and impact for your company 

  • Educate your employees, so they know how to identify behavioural traits that indicate red flags.
  • Make employees aware of the risk of internal fraud, the different types of fraud, and set up an internal reporting system.
  • Implement internal controls. For instance, implement four-eyes-principle to make sure the one who initiates the payment is not the one who authorises the payment. Also make sure the bank statements are checked often on irregularities by a third employe.
  • Monitor vacation balances. Every employee should have mandatory vacations for at least two weeks so that their colleagues will be able to detect any irregularities. 

Are you a victim of a romance scam?

As an individual: if you suspect that you are a victim of a romance scam, inform your manager or the police directly. You do not have to feel ashamed. Keep in mind, these scams have the potential to fool anyone.

As a company:

  • Report it: depending on your company’s anti-fraud policy, you should follow the proper reporting channels. As dictated by the police and procedures, communicate with key individuals in your organisation. For example, inform board members, internal audit department, HR, and key management personnel.
  • Initiate an investigation: organisations that don’t have their own anti-fraud professionals should engage an external firm that specialises in financial investigations. 
  • Place suspected employees on leave and restrict access: with guidance from the HR and legal counsel, placing the suspected employee on leave not only helps preserve evidence but also allows the employee to be available for questioning at a later time.
  • Gather evidence: only seasoned experts should engage in an investigation because improper evidence collection can harm the potential evidence to bring a case to court, should it rise to that level.

Learn more about fraud prevention

Go to our banking safely page.