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Don’t fall for romance fraud this Valentine’s Day

PCC Mark Shelford is encouraging local people to spot the signs of romance fraud and stay safe online.

Across Avon and Somerset, losses of £2.4million were reported in the 12-month period up to and including October 2021 as a result of dating scam. Increased use of social media and dating apps, during the pandemic, has led to an increase in fraudsters taking advantage of people’s loneliness.

As national lead for Economic and Cyber Crime, PCC Mark Shelford is raising awareness of how dating profiles and apps can increase your chances of falling victim to a scam.

“Romance fraud is when offenders feign romantic feelings for someone online in order to gain their affection and then use this goodwill to commit fraud.

“Fraudsters using dating apps will spend weeks gaining their victim’s trust to make them believe that there is a genuine and honest connection.

“However, weeks or even months later, the scammers will start to ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons, using a range of stories to try and persuade victims to transfer them money without it raising a suspicion. The stories are often believable and victims find it hard to say no because of their belief in this emotional attachment.

“Such examples of stories include funding travel to visit the victim, money to pay for an emergency or medical expenses, a lucrative investment or pretending to be military personnel working overseas. Scammers will often send victims false documents and pictures to enhance their story and the requests for money will usually escalate.

“The victim may continue to transfer money on false promises until they realise the lie or the fraudster ceases contact. In some cases, victims struggle to end communication with the fraudster due to months of forming a relationship and investing emotionally in a scammer. Whatever the outcome, romance fraud is a heart-breaking crime and I know victims can often feel ashamed when they realise they have been scammed.

“Please know support is available from the police and Action Fraud. If you think a family member or friend is a victim of this terrible crime, please make them aware of the signs and help them access help.”

PCC Mark Shelford
How to help protect yourself from romance fraud
  • Ensure you have adequate privacy settings on your social media accounts so strangers cannot access their personal information
  • Do not transfer money to anyone you have not met in person
  • Speaking to your family and friends to get advice
How to help protect others from romance fraud
  • Stay in regular contact with your 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 they are conscious of the tactics criminals use to carry out these scams and 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
Take Five to Stop Fraud advice
  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore your requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact you bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040