An 82-year-old man conned out of thousands of pounds by somebody he met online is just one of hundreds of people who fell victim to dating fraudsters in the past year.
Heartless scammers conned West Midlands love-seekers out of £2 million over the past 12 months with victims ranging from teenagers to octogenarians.
Con artists will create fake profiles and trick people into believing they’re the perfect partner. Instead they make up stories to persuade their marks to hand over cash or get personal details to access accounts themselves.
There were 233 victims of romance fraud in the region between August 2019 and August 2020, including an 82-year-old man who was scammed out of £14,000 after sending cash to a ’woman’ he met online.
Another case saw a 29-year-old woman was persuaded to hand over £43,000 after a con man built up her trust over a number of months. Elsewhere a man in his 50s lost £70,000 after being tricked into sending money to the United States on the expectation a woman would fly over to meet him.
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West Midlands Police is supporting a national campaign to warn singletons about falling victim to dating fraudsters which is being led by the City of London Police and Action Fraud.
As part of the campaign some of the most common online platforms for fraudsters will be running adverts on tell-tale signs and protection reminders.
Kloe Burrows, from the West Midlands Police economic crime unit, said: “Unfortunately there are criminals who are willing to target those looking for love. These con artists are manipulative, clever, subtle and capable of exploiting anyone.
“There is not only the financial impact but also the emotional heartache caused from being a victim. They gain your trust over weeks and months but rather than being in a loving and caring relationship you’re being used purely for financial gain.
“It’s important to stop and think, rather than being seduced by the profile. There are many, many online singletons who are genuine and given time, and getting to know them safely, could indeed be the perfect partner and not a fraudster.”
How to spot a romance fraudster
West Midlands Police say the following could be a sign that you are potentially being scammed:
- You’ve struck up a relationship with someone online and they declare their love for you quite quickly. They may even talk of marriage or other relationship milestones such as buying a house together. Many romance fraudsters say they are based abroad so will claim a big step in your relationship will be them returning to the UK to be with you
- They constantly make up excuses why they can’t video chat or meet in person and try to move your conversation off the platform that you met on
- Their pictures are perfect and might not match up with what they tell you about themselves. Performing a reverse image search on Google can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else
- They claim to be overseas, working in the military or medical profession. They might say they are abroad, carrying out vital work, including charity work. This helps them paint a picture of themselves as being heroic, trustworthy and reliable, and also gives them an excuse for the use of international dialling codes or poor internet connection
- When they ask for your help, it will be for a time critical emergency. The reason will be something emotive, which pulls at your heartstrings. They’ll open up to you about a problem or something that is worrying them to appear vulnerable and make you feel sorry for them
- They tell you to keep your relationship private and insist that you don’t discuss anything you talk about with your friends and family. This also includes the crisis they find themselves in that requires money.