National campaign to prevent people falling victim to romance fraud launched
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Today (Monday 10 January) a national campaign has been launched by the City of London Police to warn people about romance fraud.
The campaign urges family members 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.
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 by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021.
In Leicestershire between November 2020 and October 2021 130 reports of romance fraud were received by the force, with victims losing in excess of £900,000 through this scam.
Figures also suggest that women between the age of 40 – 60 are more likely to fall victim to this fraud.
Paul Wenlock from the force’s economic crime unit, said: “Criminals involved in these scams spend weeks gaining the victim’s trust, they will fabricate stories about their life and their identity. In the early stages there is no mention of money, so the victim may believe their love interest is genuine.
“Over a number of weeks and months that relationship continues online or via telephone conversations at which point the criminals will ask for money. Typical excuses may include being ill, being in financial difficulty, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.”
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 that the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.
Paul Wenlock added: “We’re calling on family members who think their relatives may be dating online to help make them aware of the warning signs that they could be falling victim to fraud, particularly if the person dating online is not particularly tech savvy.”
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.
If you feel you have been the victim of a similar offence we would urge you to contact Action Fraud or report online at www.leics.police.uk