Online dating in Cambridgeshire- stay safe. Fraudsters drip feed £27m in romance scams in one year
- Credit: Archant
Online dating fraud cost victims £27 million last year with the average loss standing at £10,000.
Detective Sergeant Rich Oliver from Cambridgeshire Police fraud and cyber investigation unit said: “Online dating is a popular method of meeting that special someone however this has provided fraudsters with another method of defrauding unsuspecting victims.
“Fraudsters will invest a great deal of time and money to foster an emotional relationship and where victims think you are talking to one individual it may in fact be several users working together using the same identity and sharing information that victims have provided them.
“The effect of this type of crime has enormous impact on victims as they have invested their emotions and believe they are starting a new chapter in their lives.
“Victims have invested large amounts of money, some re-mortgaging homes to obtain money for fraudsters.
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“These crimes leave the victims emotionally distressed and financially destitute.”
More than 2,700 online dating related crimes were reported to police across the UK last year, according to Get Safe Online and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
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The actual number is thought to be considerably higher, with victims not reporting due to embarrassment.
Almost two thirds of victims are aged between 40-69 and almost two thirds of all romance scams start on dating sites, followed by social media then email.
Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, said: “There are a minority of people who use online dating as a forum to target vulnerable people, knowing if they invest a lot of time into building a relationship with someone, they could potentially steal a lot of money.”
TELL TALE SIGNS OF A DATING FRAUDSTER from Get Safe Online:
• They want to communicate via instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met
• They ask lots of questions but don’t tell you much about themselves
• They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work
• Their profile picture is too perfect – they look like an actor or Miss World titleholder
• They ask for money for different scenarios eg military personnel based overseas who require funds for flights home or early discharge from the forces
• They need money for a sudden need for surgery for them or family member
• They’ve arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel costs
STAY SAFE ONLINE
• Trust your instincts - if you think something feels wrong, it probably is
• Choose a site that will protect your anonymity until you choose to reveal personal information
• Do not post personal information, such as phone numbers, on dating sites
• Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust
• Wait until you feel comfortable with an individual before telling them things like your phone number, place of work or address
• Be extremely wary about removing clothes or doing other things in front of your webcam that could be used against you
• Use a dating site that offers the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties’ true email addresses
• Set up a separate email account that does not use your real name
• Pick a user name that does not include personal information. For example, “joe_glasgow” or “jane_liverpool” are bad choices
• Meet for the first few times in a safe place with plenty of people around, and tell a family member or friend where you are
If you think you have been a victim of fraud report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
For advice visit www.GetSafeOnline.org.