Love may be in the air for many, but fraudsters have no scruples about exploiting people’s emotions.
Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber and Digital Crime Unit are warning people to spot the signs of romance fraud – so they don’t become a victim this Valentine’s Day.
Detective Inspector Andy Myers from the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit said: “Typically, romance fraudsters will spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust, feeding them fabricated stories about who they are and their lives – and initially make no suggestion of any desire to ask for any money, so the victim may believe their new love interest is genuine.
“But weeks, or sometimes months later, these criminals will ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons and as the emotional relationship has already been formed, victims often transfer money without a second thought.
“We’re calling on friends and family members of people who are 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.”
Between November 2020 and October 2021 Cumbria Police received 63 reports of romance fraud, with victim’s in Cumbria losing a total of £853.6k with it affecting both men and women equally.
Romance scams involve people being duped into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship.
They use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.
These requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas.
Scammers will often build a relationship with their victims over time.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Many of us are aware of romance fraud but we don’t always consider the fact that anyone can fall victim to this type of scam.
“Cyber criminals will say anything to gain the trust of their victim and emotionally manipulate them into sending money for a number of reasons.
“This is why it is so important that we know how to keep ourselves safe from fraud and other aspects of cyber-crime, which is why I commission Get Safe Online for Cumbria.
“Get Safe Online is a fantastic organisation that provides tips and advice on how to prevent becoming a victim of cyber-crime and I would urge everyone to visit their website to learn more at www.getsafeonline.org.
“If you have been a victim of fraud report it to the Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”
It is important that no matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you think you trust them, if you have not met them in person it’s important that you do not:
- Send them any money
- Allow them access to your bank account
- Transfer money on their behalf
- Take a loan out for them
- Provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses
- Invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice
- Purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes
- Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf (laptops, mobile phones etc.)
If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed – you are not alone.
Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.