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RISK WARNING: Romance Fraud

£24 million lost to romance fraud in the past year, say NFIB

 In the last year the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has recorded in excess of £24 million pounds lost to romance fraud, with more than 1,000 victims being conned out of £21,600 each (on average).

Most vulnerable are those aged between 45 and 55, with women twice as likely to fall victim as men. However, research indicates that men are more reluctant to report a fraud due to embarrassment. Two thirds of victims who made a report were based in the UK and contacted by someone they believed was overseas.

Romance fraud can cause significant emotional distress, most commonly occurring when people with online dating profiles are approached by someone who, on the face of it, has the makings of a perfect partner. Once a friendship has been formed the relationship moves offline and is developed via private email and over the phone. But behind the carefully constructed façade can lie a calculated criminal preying on a person's desire to meet someone special. Once convinced their target is emotionally attached they will say they are facing a personal problem and ask for money to help. Common stories include a family member who is ill and needs medical treatment or that the romancer wants to arrange a visit and needs money for travel and visa costs.

Media coverage of romance frauds have caused offenders to adapt their methods, using more realistic photographs for profiles, spending more time 'grooming' their victim and even creating other websites and profiles to support their back story.

Head of Economic Crime at the City of London Police, Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw, said:

"More and more people are going online in search of someone special with the hope of forming a new relationship. What they are not expecting is to be preyed upon by cold-hearted and calculated fraudsters who are experts in turning people's dreams into nightmares.

"Using internet dating sites is still a safe way to meet people but it is very important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate a new friend is not all that they seem. Keeping this in mind when you go online will ensure you spot a fraudster coming and immediately shut them down and move on."

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, commented:

"As more of us bring our personal lives into the virtual world, it's crucial that people are extra vigilant about the information they share. Sometimes we need to use our heads ahead of our hearts to ensure we don't fall victim to romance fraud.

"The internet has revolutionised dating and has many benefits, but we want the public to take the advice we give on getsafeonline.org and enjoy meeting new people safely. Don't let online crime stop you meeting someone special this year."

Advice and how you can protect yourself from the threat of romance fraud

Are you a victim of dating fraud?

  • The new love of your life looks like a supermodel in the pictures they send you.
  • They ask you lots of questions about yourself but don't tell you much about themselves.
  • They quickly start calling you by a pet name or use endearing terms such as 'darling'.
  • They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
  • They don't answer basic questions about where they live and work.
  • They start asking you to send them money.

What should you do if you've been a victim of dating fraud?

  • Report it to Action Fraud - www.actionfraud.org.uk or on 0300 123 2040
  • Break off all contact immediately.
  • Report the fraudster to the website or chat room operator.
  • Do not send any more money.

Protect yourself against dating fraud

  • Trust your instincts. If you think something feels wrong, take steps to protect yourself.
  • Consider guarding your privacy when communicating with people and be selective with the information you provide about yourself.
  • Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don't know and trust.
  • Be wary when communicating with people locally and overseas, although you should be aware that someone might tell you they are in the same country as you when they are not.
  • Take care and consider not replying to communications from someone who you meet on a dating site or chat room and then wants to continue the communication by email.
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This article was shared from the City of London Police website. To view the original article, please go to http://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/CityPolice/Media/News/romancefraud130213.htm