FRIENDS and family of online daters are being urged to help protect their relatives from becoming a victim of romance fraud, as West Midlands Police report at least £2.8million lost in the region to romance fraud in 12 months.
The force said there were 347 reported victims between November 2020 and October 2021.
This covered a range of ages with the most common targets being between 20 and 29 where there were 74 victims.
There were also 68 between the ages of 40 to 49.
Romance fraudsters will typically spend weeks building up trust and an emotional attachment with their target.
These manipulative criminals will then use a range of often believable stories to get victims to transfer them money without raising suspicion.
This includes funds to visit their ‘love interest’, money to pay for emergency medical expenses and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.
West Midlands Police is supporting a national two week-long campaign to help online daters and their families spot the signs of romance fraud – led by City of London Police who are the UK lead force for fraud.
Khatija Nichols, from the Economic Crime Unit, said: “We’d encourage daters to keep in contact with trusted family and friends and update them. They can watch for any change in behaviour while also flagging any warning signs.
“Other advice includes staying on a dating platform which has processes in place to protect users and spend time getting to know the person.
“Never disclose personal information until ready and never send money to someone you’ve only been in contact with online.”
Anyone who thinks they have been victim of fraud should contact their bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud onlne at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Family and friends are being urged to play an active role to help protect people they know are online dating.
- Ensure there are adequate privacy settings on social media accounts to ensure strangers don’t have access to personal information.
- Stay in regular contact with 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. 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.