Police Forces are highlighting these deplorable scams ahead of Valentine’s Day.
These days it’s more about love at first swipe rather than love at first sight. And criminals looking to scam people out thousands of pounds are taking to dating sites to prey on lonely singletons, with victims of romance scams in the UK losing an average of £11,145 each in 2018.
The data, from police reporting centre Action Fraud, showed that £50m was lost to these scams in 2018 when fraudsters tricked innocent and often vulnerable people into thinking they’re romantically attached.
Victims are often targeted via online dating websites, apps, or through social media sites and though many of these sites are legitimate fraudsters are using fake profiles to form relationships in a bid to steal thousands of pounds.
Last year, one of several victims in our area lost over £100,000 after sending money to a man they’d met online.
The fraudster spent months building a relationship, exchanging phone calls and emails with the victim, even telling them they were working overseas and sending a fake employment contract to convince the victim they were genuine.
It was only when the victim asked questions of the local embassy that they realised they had been a victim of fraud.
Detective Sergeant Ben Robinson said; “Fraudsters prey on people’s vulnerabilities, loneliness and good nature for their own financial gain. These crimes are callous acts of criminality carried out by people deprived of any moral compass”.
“This cruel fraud is one of the most devastating for our victims to deal with because they have suffered losses both financially and emotionally.
“These scams can be extremely sophisticated and victims should not feel ashamed or embarrassed and shouldn’t blame themselves in any way.
“It’s important that victims know there is help available to them and we would encourage them to seek support.”
“It can be difficult for the Police and other agencies to recover money lost through romance fraud as scammers often operate overseas, so I would urge people to make themselves and their loved ones aware of how these people operate.”
Follow our top tips to help keep you safe while looking for love:
- Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
- Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
- Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
- Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.
What to do if you’re the victim of this type of fraud:
- Don’t feel embarrassed, these fraudsters can be very convincing!
- Report it to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. You can do this on-line by going to www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040
- If you’ve paid by credit or debit card for anything, or made a bank transfer contact your card provider/bank and explain that you have been a victim. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to cancel payments and protect your identity from being possibly stolen.
- We’re always here to help. You can call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.