National campaign launched to prevent people falling victim to romance fraud

Date published: 11 January 2022 09:58
Dated: 11 January 2022 09:52:08

A national campaign has been launched by the City of London Police to warn people about the risks of romance fraud.

The campaign urges family members of online daters to help protect their relatives from becoming a victim of romance fraud, as new national figures show almost £92 million has been lost through dating scams between November 2020 and October 2021.

Data shows that daters who strike up online relationships between Christmas and Valentine’s Day tend to be the most susceptible to romance fraud, with a spike of 901 reports recorded across the country by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021.

In South Yorkshire, 147 reports of romance fraud were received by the force between November 2020 and October 2021, with victims losing in excess of £1.6 million through this scam.

Detective Sergeant Sam Erabadda from the force’s Fraud Coordination Team said: “In order to exploit victims in this way, criminals spend time building up a seemingly genuine relationship with them, which involves gaining their trust, so that they believe the person they are speaking to may be a sincere love interest. Once this trust has been established, the criminals then take advantage of their victim by asking them for money, in a way that avoids raising suspicion.”

Criminals often use a range of stories to get victims to transfer them money without it raising suspicion. The stories are often believable, to a certain extent, and something the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.

Examples of stories include funding travel to visit the victim, money to pay for emergency medical expenses, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.

DS Erabadda added: “You can protect yourself by avoiding giving away too many personal details to a stranger online, messaging potential love interests through reputable sites' messaging services, and most importantly, never sending money to someone you've only ever met online.

“We’re also encouraging people who think their friends or relatives may be dating online to help make them aware of the warning signs of romance fraud, particularly if the person is newly involved in dating, so that they can avoid becoming a victim.”

How to help protect people you know are online dating:

  • Help your friends and family to ensure they have adequate privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure strangers don’t have access to their personal information.
  • Stay in regular contact with your friends and family who are online dating to help spot any changes in behaviour or things that don’t seem right.
  • Make friends and family aware of the signs of romance fraud so that they are conscious of the tactics criminals use to carry out these scams and reiterate that you should never transfer money to someone that you have never met in person.
  • Encourage people to report to Action Fraud and the police if they have become a victim of romance fraud and not to be embarrassed about doing so.

Anyone who is speaking to people they do not know or have not known for a long period of time is urged to follow the Take Five To Stop Fraud advice:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Safe dating advice is also available on the Online Dating Association’s website at www.onlinedatingassociation.org.uk

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