Cumbria Police are warning people to spot the signs of romance fraud – so they don’t become a victim this Valentine’s Day.
Love may be in the air for many today, but fraudsters have no scruples about exploiting people’s emotions to get their hands on cash.
Romance fraud happens when a person thinks they have met the perfect partner through a dating website, app or through social media.
But, in fact, a fraudster is using a fake profile to form a relationship with them.
They will gain the person’s trust and ask for money or enough personal information to steal the victim’s identity.
Cases in Cumbria have involved victims meeting fraudsters on dating websites.
They have then started sending money to what they think is their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, who is often in another country.
Last year there were 19 cases classed as dating scams – 12 involving women victims and seven where men were conned.
Detective Sergeant Stephanie Goulding said: “A story will be produced – perhaps they need money for a flight to come over or they are facing some kind of medical emergency.
“Many victims, even when we go to speak to them, are convinced that the person is real and is genuinely in a relationship with them.
“We believe a lot of these crimes go unreported as a result.
“Even those who do eventually accept it is a scam are often too embarrassed to tell anyone.”
DS Goulding said that not only do victims lose money, the emotional impact can be even more difficult to come to terms with.
“We would urge people to protect themselves and try not to fall victim to this type of scam by following the advice of experts,” she added.
“Together with our partners, we are urging people to look after themselves online and aim to spot the signs of romance fraud.”
Nationwide in 2018, 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud – the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre – with victims reporting to have lost a total of more than £50m.
A report produced by Action Fraud shows the average age of a romance fraud victim nationally is 50 and that 63 per cent of dating fraud victims are women, who lose twice as much on average than men.
Diana Fawcett, chief officer at independent charity, Victim Support, said: “Romance fraud affects victims both emotionally and financially and for many the impact can be long term.
“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.”
Date Safe tips from Action Fraud:
- 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.
About Action Fraud
Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, providing a central point of contact for citizens and businesses. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), also hosted by the City of London Police, acts upon the information and crimes reported to Action Fraud, developing and disseminating crime packages for investigation locally, regionally and nationally.