Remember to stay safe online as reports of romance fraud rise 26% nationally in a year
Devon & Cornwall Police are working with other forces nationally and partners to tackle romance fraud.
Romance fraud, or dating fraud, occurs when you think you’ve met the perfect person online, but they are using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. They gain your trust over a number of weeks or months and have you believe you are in a loving and caring relationship. However, their end goal is only ever to get your money or personal information.
Between August 2019 and August 2020 Action Fraud received 190 reports for the Devon and Cornwall area from victims of romance fraud. The losses reported by the victims during this time came to £1.8m averaging just under £9,500 per victim.
During June, July and August, Action Fraud received more than 600 reports nationally per month of romance fraud. This indicated that people may have met, and begun talking to, romance fraudsters during the national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Detective Inspector Julie Scoles has seen how much this type of fraud can impact on the victims. She said: “Romance fraud is an incredibly distressing crime for the victim. Scammers usually target those who seem lonely and very slowly creep into the lives of those looking for love and companionship. They are very clever in how they operate; it is a sophisticated crime and almost anyone can become a victim. Making the victim feel safe and secure they will look for ways to get their money. Victims can often be left penniless and distraught with some scams lasting for months and sometimes years. These are without doubt one of the cruellest types of scams.
“The good news is, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself or friends or family members you may be concerned about. Firstly it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they say they are. Be cautious how much information you disclose about yourself online and no matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you trust them, don’t send them any money or give them access to your bank account. If you are on a dating site, stay on the sites messaging system. Too often the criminal will want to switch to another platform that is less regulated. If someone asks for financial help, you should report them. Most online platforms have a reporting tool.”
During October the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, will be co-ordinating enforcement activity across the UK and overseas to target and ultimately arrest criminals suspected of committing romance fraud.
The top five platforms where victims reported first interacting with the criminal committing romance fraud were Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Instagram, Tinder and Match.com. As part of the campaign the Match Group, who own OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Match.com, are running romance fraud protection adverts throughout October on these platforms, to inform their users how to spot the signs of a romance fraud and how to protect themselves online.