Heartless fraudsters defrauded a huge £ 1.1 MILLION of Northamptonshire victims seeking love in 2020.
Up to 100 people were swindled at an average of £ 11,500 each using fake online profiles to convince targets they were ‘the one’.
But PC Neil Mackenzie warned, “The financial loss of romance fraud is hard to overcome, but it is the emotional impact on victims that can be devastating as they end up loving the person who scammed them.
“We want to do everything we can to raise awareness of this heartless crime to prevent people from falling into the trap.”
Romantic scammers convince victims that they have met the perfect match online by using fake profiles to build trust over a period of weeks or months.
Almost six in ten victims are between the ages of 40 and 60, and all kinds of websites and apps are used, including Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, and Match.
The con artist spent 18 months gaining his trust before disappearing with over £ 100,000, leaving his victim horribly in debt.
A former trickster who spoke to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting center, revealed how creating fake accounts on multiple social media platforms makes them authentic when potential partners seek to verify them.
The scammer said, “People like to live in fairy tales to say it won’t happen to me.
“I make sure all of my conversations are tailor-made. I myself will show insecurity about people’s trust and that helps make them believe I’m genuine.”
Already in 2021, figures show a 20% year-over-year increase – although this is only the tip of the iceberg, as many victims are too embarrassed to report the crime.
PC Mackenzie added: Fraudsters often pretend to be a professional, doctor, or military overseas.
“Once the scammers are convinced that you have enough sympathy and desire for them, they will tell you about a problem they are having and ask you to help them by sending money.
“For example, they have made arrangements to visit you but need money to pay for travel or visa costs, or they have paid for a plane ticket which is then stolen.
“It could also be that a family member or someone else for whom they are responsible is sick and they need money for treatment.
“Once you send them money, scammers come back with more reasons to send them money, or will ask you to use your bank account to transfer money for them.”
The police have a list of telltale signs that your online date may be a scammer:
■ Wanting to communicate via instant messaging and SMS – which are more difficult to trace – rather than the dating site or chat room where you met
■ Asking a lot of questions about you but not revealing much about themselves, even dodging basic questions about where they live and work
■ Their profile picture is too perfect and they can’t send a live image with a thumbs-up or hand wave
■ They can’t TALK to you video calls are silent as this is a stolen loop on genuine site
■ Talk about their financial difficulties to sow a seed before asking for money
Don’t let your heart rule your head and trust your instincts – if you think something is wrong, it probably is!
■ Anyone who believes they have been the victim of fraud should report it to Fraud in action by calling 0300 1232040 or visiting their website.