Greater Mancunians who are looking for love have been issued a warning following a spate of romance fraud cases. Five cases were reported across the region last week, Greater Manchester Police says.
Romance scams take place when criminals try to build the trust of their unsuspecting victims and convince them they are in a genuine relationship – before duping them into sending money. It’s a problem which has cost victims millions of pounds in recent years.
Figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats and reported by The Mancunian Way this Valentine’s Day suggest 836 people fell victim to romance scams in Greater Manchester from 2019 to 2022, with the amount of money lost totalling £7.7 million. Following the latest wave of incidents, GMP is urging residents to be vigilant.
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A spokesperson for the force said: “Romance fraud is a serious offence that can leave victims feeling vulnerable and exploited, online dating has made it easier for criminals to use ways to scam unsuspecting victims from their money. Emotive language is used to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.
“These requests can be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas. Scammers will often build a relationship with their victims over time.”
‘I got scammed by a man I met on Tinder’
The Manchester Evening News has previously reported on the horrific impact romance fraud can have on victims. Sophie James thought she had fallen for a man named ‘Tom’ on Tinder last November.
But after hitting it off and messaging for a month, she became the victim of the scam. ‘Tom’ told Sophie his bank cards had been blocked on a work visit to London and needed £198 for a train back to Manchester.
He promised to transfer the money back as soon as he returned but minutes after sending over the cash, ‘Tom’ blocked Sophie. “He was definitely my type,” she told the M.E.N.
“Dark hair, strong manly features with a nice length of beard. We started talking and within a few hours I thought he was definitely a nice guy.
“I’m not really the type to get on FaceTime but we exchanged voice notes and he seemed really genuine. It just didn’t cross my mind that it could be fake.
“I was devastated and it’s definitely put me off online dating. I just feel very lied to and deceived which is silly as we only spoke for a month or so.”
How to avoid a romance scam
GMP says that if you have not met someone in person, you should not send them any money, allow them access to your bank accounts or transfer money on their behalf – regardless of how long you have been speaking to them, or how much you think you trust them. Other tips to stay safe are:
- Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online
- Let your family or friends know and ask for their advice or a second opinion
- Profile photos may not be genuine, do your research first – performing a reverse image search on a search engine can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone else
- Be wary if they refuse to video call or meet you in person.
Anyone who has fallen for a romance scam can get advice from Victim Support. GMP also have advice for friends and family to spot the signs of a romance scam affecting a loved one:
- They may be very secretive about their relationship or provide excuses for why their online partner has not video called or met them in person
- They might become hostile or angry, and withdraw from conversation when you ask any questions about their partner
- They may express very strong emotions and commitment to someone they have only just met
- They have sent, or are planning to send, money to someone they have not met face-to-face
- They may take out loans or withdraw from their pension to send money.
Suspected romance fraud should be reported to GMP as soon as possible, by calling 101 or visiting the force’s website. Alternatively, report suspicions of romance fraud anonymously to Scamalytics.
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