London woman has shared her experience of being manipulated by a romance fraudster – as figures reveal more than £92m has been lost to such scams nationally in the last year.
Emmanuel Scotts, 55, from Fulham, was jailed for 12 years in November for “callously” scamming a number of women he met on an online dating website out of more than £320,000.
Romance fraud sees victims defrauded into sending money by criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them they are in a genuine relationship.
One of Scotts’ victims, named only as Vicky, has spoken about her experience, explaining: “They look for your weaknesses and mine is my son, and not having his dad around.”
She had been single a long time, and was vulnerable following a previous bad relationship, when she met Scotts on a dating site.
“He made a point of being interested in everything my son did, taking time to talk to him when we were on the phone together and praising him,” she said.
“He praised me constantly on what a great job I was doing bringing him up on my own, telling me he wanted to take care of me.”
Unbeknown to Vicky, Scotss was targeting multiple women simultaneously, with losses amounting to £60k, £230k and £26k, according to police.
Scotts was found guilty of four counts of fraud by false representation following an eight-week-long trial. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment at Kingston Crown Court in November.
To mark World Romance Scam Prevention Day on Monday, City of London Police warned Londoners to beware of romance fraud.
Fraudsters use a range of tools and techniques to systematically groom, isolate and manipulate victims to ultimately exploit them for financial gain, using fake personas, websites and companies, fabricated narratives and false documents.
Their relationships with victims typically feature gaslighting, coercive control and emotional blackmail.
In the last financial year, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) received 8,036 reports of romance fraud, amounting to over £92m lost, with an average loss per victim of £11,500, new data shows.
This marks a fall of 6.7 per cent compared to last year’s figure of 8,710 reports.
But Detective Superintendent Gary Miles, from the City of London Police, said romance fraud “continues to have devastating emotional and financial consequences” for victims across the UK.
“Many victims of romance fraud are meant to feel that they are alone and that they are at fault, however the reality couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
“Romance fraudsters rely on the kindness and compassionate nature within us all, where highly manipulative and coercive techniques are used to exploit this for their own gain.
“Romance fraud can result in people having their hard-earned savings wiped out, in tens of thousands of pounds in debt and also, in some extreme cases, having to remortgage their homes.
“We endeavour to continue the fight against romance fraudsters both in the UK and overseas, so people can not only protect their money but also prevent long-term emotional psychological damage from callous criminals.”
City of London Police urged Londoners to to be suspicious of any requests for money or personal documents from people they have never met in person.
It urged people to be wary of people they have met online, regardless of “how much you think you trust them”, and to be aware profile photos on social media may not be genuine.
It also adviced people to seek advice from family and friends, warning fraudsters “subtly isolate” victims for their own purposes.
To report fraud to Action Fraud, fill out the online fraud reporting tool or call 0300 123 2040.