A lonely Leicestershire man nearly handed over £2,000 to scammers pretending to be a potential romantic partner stuck in a coronavirus quarantine hotel.
The victim, who asked to remain nameless, met someone online who claimed they were being kept against their will in quarantine in London after leaving the United States to start a new life in the UK.
They said that they needed £2,000 so they could leave the hotel.
The Hinckley resident contacted their MP, Dr Luke Evans, for help, but suspicions were raised as the US is currently on the amber list, which means that people arriving from there can quarantine at home for 10 days rather than have to stay confined in a hotel.
It was then established that the resident had nearly fallen victim to a romance scam and that their intended partner was not who they said they were.
The Leicestershire resident had only spoken with them via an online chat service.
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The incident has been reported to Leicestershire Police, and Dr Evans would like to make sure that nobody else falls victim to the scam, or other types of online fraud.
Dr Evans said: “Unfortunately during the pandemic fraudulent online activity has risen, with UK police forces reporting that £34.5 million has been stolen in over 6,000 Covid-19 specific scams since March 2020.
“We should all be mindful that those online are not necessarily who they say they are, and everyone is at risk from being a victim of fraud, whether they are shopping, banking or dating online.
“Fraudulent activity is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it is important that we all remain vigilant.
“The constituent in this case came close to losing a sizeable amount of money, and I am glad we were able to prevent that from happening.”
LeicestershireLive has contacted Leicestershire Police for comment.
Dr Evans has raised the issue of fraud during Covid with Justice Minister, Robert Buckland, to ask what the Government is doing to combat the trend.
He also met with commercial bank TSB and was told that over 50 per cent of scams and fraud directly involved social media.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “Criminals are exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to scam people in a variety of ways and this is only likely to increase.
“We need individuals and businesses to be fully aware and prepared.
“There is a wealth of advice available from dedicated counter fraud professionals, but in general you should always think very carefully before you hand over your money or your personal details.
“If you think you have fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately and please report to Action Fraud.”
Suspicious activity or incidents can be reported to Action Fraud through the website or by phoning 0300 123 2040.