HEARTLESS scammers are targeting people looking for love online in lockdown, police warn.
West Midlands Police is urging singletons to be on their guard against online con-artists who are cruelly exploiting their search for love.
It comes as 19 victims were duped out of almost £100,000 combined across the West Midlands in the last three months.
The tricksters set up fake online profiles and build up a rapport with their victims, who believe they have found a trusting companion.
They then claim to need money with convincing stories around their job roles and, dependent on the ’relationship’, will ask them to send cash directly or gain enough information to access accounts themselves.
Examples of ‘romance fraud’ include false claims of being in the military and needing money to return home.
The con-artists may also say they’re volunteers and need support with raising money, or a Chief Executive who uses their ‘business’ as an excuse to send money.
The majority of those scammed while looking for love in lockdown between March and May were aged in their 50s and 60s.
Kloe Burrows, from our Economic Crime Unit, said: “These criminals seek to exploit people looking for love and companionship.
“They establish a trust and affection with the victim before asking them for money or obtaining enough personal details to steal their identity.
“It’s important to think ’Dates’ when looking for love online and protect yourselves against falling victim to a con-artist. They not only cause heartbreak but may stop you connecting with one of the many eligible singletons.”
The West Midlands Police and Crimes Commissioner David Jamieson added: “This really is one of the lowest forms of deception. Online romance fraud scams deliberately target people who are looking for friendship and love. Under these circumstances some people become extremely vulnerable to deception and these heartless scammers, often hundreds of miles away, have carefully laid traps to pounce and con innocent people out of sometimes several thousand pounds.
“With almost £100,000 already scammed from people in this way from the West Midlands since March alone, it’s vital we stop these fraudsters in their tracks. By highlighting what could be a very sensitive subject for some, we can at least draw their attention to the dangers of the fraud they face when they go online to try to meet potential partners.”
Think Dates advice:
• Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
• Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
• Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
• Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
• Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.
To report romance fraud message us via Live Chat on our website or go to the Action Fraud website at www.actionfraud.police.uk