Police warn Kent residents of fraudsters using online dating sites and social media


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Police are warning residents to be aware of online fraudsters using dating sites and other social networks to target vulnerable people.

Two cases of romance fraud came to the attention of officers in June and July this year, where scammers were making contact via email and text.

One of the victims is believed to have lost thousands of pounds after receiving messages from a Nigerian email account.

The fraudsters create fake personalities and take their time to build what feels like a loving relationship before asking for money.

As well as individual scammers, organised crime networks based in various locations around the world are involved in romance fraud.

These networks often target their victims with emotional stories of divorce or bereavement in order to build a bond with the individual.

Some common romance fraud tactics include: Contact from someone who is not able to physically meet, especially if they are overseas;

A relationship forming at an unusually fast rate, possibly expressions of love or talk of marriage or having a long term future together within just a few weeks of first contact;

Profiles that immediately tug on heart strings – supposed current or ex-serviceman or woman, or someone claiming to be recently widowed to gain your sympathy and trust.

Once the fraudster is confident that they have won the trust of the victim, they will ask for money. Any form of request for money should set alarm bells ringing.

Common tricks include: They prey on your sympathies by telling you a family member or loved one needs money for medical treatment;

They want to visit you, but need money to pay for flights or visa, or they tell you everything was booked but their ticket has been stolen, so you need to send money quickly to get them on the next flight;

They have a great business opportunity, or they already have a large sum of money but cannot access it, so need your temporary help until their money comes through.

Detective inspector Annie Clayton, said: “Fraudsters play on the emotions of unsuspecting people and use promises of marriage and love to manipulate them into sending money.

“Whereas all fraud is unacceptable, these offences are particularly cruel as they can completely undermine the victim’s confidence and trust.

“It’s important to never send money to someone online you have never met, and always think twice about posting personal information online which could be used to manipulate or bribe you.

“This fraud can be defeated by spreading public awareness and encouraging friends and family to always check the legitimacy of a stranger who has contacted them online.

 

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