SINGLETONS are urged to be on their guard against online con-artists who may cruelly exploit their search for love.
The warning from West Midlands Police comes as 19 victims in the region were duped out of almost £100,000 between them over the last three months.
Heartless tricksters have been setting up fake online profiles and police say they build up a rapport with their victim, who believes they have found a trusting companion, before claiming to need money. They then offer up convincing stories as they ask for cash or even gain enough information to access accounts themselves.
Examples of ‘romance fraud’ include false claims of being in the military and needing money to return home, a force spokesman said.
The con artists may also say they are volunteers and need support with raising money, or a chief executive who uses their ‘business’ as an excuse to send money.
The majority of those scammed while looking for love in lockdown between March and May were aged in their 50s and 60s.
Kloe Burrows, from the force’s economic crime unit, said: “These criminals seek to exploit people looking for love and companionship.
“They establish a trust and affection with the victim before asking them for money or obtaining enough personal details to steal their identity.”
West Midlands Police and Crimes Commissioner David Jamieson added: “This really is one of the lowest forms of deception. Online romance fraud scams deliberately target people who are looking for friendship and love. Under these circumstances some people become extremely vulnerable to deception and these heartless scammers, often hundreds of miles away, have carefully laid traps to pounce and con innocent people out of sometimes several thousand pounds.
“With almost £100,000 already scammed from people in this way from the West Midlands since March alone, it’s vital we stop these fraudsters in their tracks. By highlighting what could be a very sensitive subject for some, we can at least draw their attention to the dangers of the fraud they face when they go online to try to meet potential partners.”
Tips to protect yourself from falling victim to a con artist when looking for love online:
• Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
• Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
• Talk to friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
• Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
• Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.
To report romance fraud message police via Live Chat on on the force website or go to the Action Fraud website actionfraud.police.uk.
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