Romance fraud alert after 350 lonely hearts meet £3m a year

Brutal romance fraudsters robbed nearly £3m from hundreds of love-seekers in the West Midlands over 12 months.

West Midlands Police said 347 victims reported crimes after being duped by online scammers using fake profiles and sob stories.

Officials said the tricksters received at least £2.8m from people between November 2020 and October 2021. This works out to an average of £8k per victim.

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The force said the most common targets were those in their 20s – where there were 74 victims. There were also 68 victims aged 40 to 49.

Police want people to be careful and urged family members to help protect relatives from romance fraud – especially in the lead-up to Valentines Day.

Romance cheaters will typically spend weeks building trust and emotional attachment with their target. The police said that these manipulative criminals would use several credible stories to transfer money to the victims without any doubt.

This includes money to visit their “love interest”, money to pay for emergency medical expenses, and military personnel or pretending to work overseas.

“We are supporting a national two-week long campaign to help online daters and their families spot the signs of romance fraud – starting today, Monday, 10 January – led by City of London Police, Which is the UK’s leading force for fraud,” police said.

“Anyone talking to someone they don’t know, or haven’t known for a long time, is urged to follow Take Five advice to prevent fraud. This includes: Taking some time to stop and think before parting with or information can keep you safe.

“Could it be fake? It’s okay to refuse, refuse or ignore any request. Only criminals will try to run away or scare you.”

Khatija Nichols from the Police’s Economic Offenses Unit said: “While most online daters are genuine, unfortunately there are fraudsters who take advantage of their quest for love for financial gain.

“These criminals are manipulative and ready to prey on the sentiments of the people. It is important to stop and think and not fall prey to any profile.

“We would encourage daters to stay in touch with trusted family and friends and keep them updated. They can spot any changes in behavior, flagging any warning signs.

“Other advice includes staying on a dating platform that has procedures in place to protect users and spending time getting to know the person. Never disclose personal information until you’re ready, and never send money to someone you love.” who you are only in contact with online.”

Family and friends can also take an active role in protecting people they know they are dating online.

Police said: “Make sure they have adequate privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure that strangers do not have access to their personal information.

“Stay in regular contact with your friends and family who are dating online to help spot any changes in behavior or things that don’t feel right.

“Make friends and family aware of the signs of romance fraud so that they are aware of the tactics criminals use to perpetrate these scams. Reiterate that you should never transfer money to someone you may never personal. have not been found at all.

“Encourage people to take action fraud and report them to the police if they have been the victim of romance fraud and don’t be ashamed to do so.”

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud. You can do this online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Have you been the victim of a romance fraud? Email newsdesk@birminghamlive.co.uk or call 0121 234 5536

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