Throughout October, police forces across the country are working together on a 'Protect' campaign, which is aimed at raising awareness on romance and dating scams.
This month, police forces across the country are working together to tackle romance fraud. The 'Protect' campaign is aimed at raising awareness and empowering people to understand how to best protect themselves against these offences, along with encouraging anyone who may have fallen victim, to have the confidence in coming forward to place a report.
Romance fraud is a devastating crime, which can have a severe impact on its victims, both financially and emotionally, and can be heartbreaking for the families involved. These types of offences occur when an individual believes that they’ve met their perfect partner online, but the other party involved is using a fake profile to form a relationship and over a course of weeks or months, gains the trust of the individual - with the criminal’s end goal being to steal money or personal information from their victim.
During lockdown, with an increased feeling of isolation, more people have been switching to social media to stay in contact with family and friends, along with a sharp rise in the usage of online dating platforms. Whilst using the internet is a great tool for meeting people and forming relationships, there’s also a great risk of being lured into a romance scam as, unfortunately, criminals are experts in impersonation and know how to take advantage of people’s desire for human contact.
This year, we have seen a worrying increase in romance fraud cases emerging. There has been a 26% rise in cases and between August 2019 to August 2020, Action Fraud received over 400 reports a month from victims in the UK. Losses reported by victims during this time, totalled £66,335,239 – which equates to an average loss per victim of just over £10,000.
Tammy Barnes, Fraud Protect Officer at Derbyshire Constabulary said:
"One of the key trends we are noticing with romance fraud cases in Derbyshire, is that those being targeted often have open social media profiles and may be unaware just how much of their personal information is available to view.
"Whilst anyone can fall victim to one of these scams, there are things you can do to protect yourself from the likelihood of this happening to your or someone you love.
"Unfortunately, those affected by romance fraud stand to lose a lot more than their heart to another person and it’s crucial that we raise awareness of the devastating impact this can have.
"We’re reminding everyone to stop and think: fall for the person, not the profile, it could protect you and your money."
Diana Fawcett, Chief Executive of the independent charity 'Victim Support', stated:
"Victims of romance fraud often blame themselves, but it is important to understand that this is an incredibly sophisticated crime, and that almost anyone can be targeted. Victims may feel they have not only lost money, but also a loving partner or relationship they thought they had.
"Lockdown restrictions meant people could not meet in person for a number of months, which led to many seeking to form new connections online. Unfortunately, we've seen that circumstances caused by coronavirus were in fact used by fraudsters as a ‘hook’ to extort money. For example, some have invented lies about needing medical treatment, or urgent travel expenses to leave a country, or funds to keep afloat after a bogus job loss caused by the pandemic.
"It’s important to be aware that not everyone is who they say they are."
If you think you, or someone you know has been a victim of romance fraud, please report it to us via one of the following methods:
Facebook: send us a private message to /DerbyshireConstabulary
Twitter: direct message our contact centre on @DerPolContact