"Each month we see many incidents of fraudsters targeting our residents in an attempt to defraud them. We’re working hard to prevent this and support vulnerable victims of fraud or scams. By following our tips and encouraging family, friends and colleagues to do so too, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim." T/Detective Chief Inspector Rob Walker, Surrey Police & Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit
Romance Fraud Special
Almost £92 million was lost to romance scams in the past year. Romance fraudsters invest weeks or months of time getting to know their victims and gain their trust, before asking them for money for a variety of reasons. The stories are often believable to an extent, something that the victim would find hard to say no to because of their emotional attachment.
Examples include funding travel to visit the victim, emergency medical expenses, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.
Daters who strike up online relationships between Christmas and Valentine’s Day tend to be most susceptible, with a spike of 901 reports recorded by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021.
A 69-year-old man from Surrey was approached by a woman on Instagram. After many conversations online they began an relationship. The victim had no local family or friends, so was pleased to have someone to talk to each day and trusted the fraudster. After some time, she convinced him that she wanted to marry him and claimed she was going to come and visit him.
The fraudster told the victim she needed money in the form of Amazon gift cards to pay for petrol to travel to him, and sent him photos of her packing her bags to make the victim believe her story. The victim purchased £100 in Amazon vouchers and provided the codes to the fraudster.
The victim soon became suspicious when the fraudster claimed she needed more vouchers as the first ones didn’t work, and checked with the supermarket he brought them from.
Spot the Signs of Romance Fraud
Fraudsters will use glamorous photos of themselves and try to gain your trust and get information from you by making conversations more personal.
Romance fraudsters often claim to have high-ranking roles that keep them away from home for a long time, and which account for why they can't meet you in person.
Fraudsters often try to steer you away from speaking on legitimate dating websites and chat rooms as soon as possible so the conversations take place on non-monitored platforms.
Fraudsters may send high value items to their victims and ask them to send them on elsewhere, or ask them to receive money into their bank account and transfer it on to someone else.
A 50-year-old woman from Sussex fell victim to romance fraud after being befriended by a male on Facebook. The man claimed to be living in the United States and soon asked the victim to speak on WhatsApp. The victim and the fraudster spoke for several months before deciding to start a relationship.
The fraudster told the victim he was having issues with his US bank account and that she could help him by having his money transferred to a Bitcoin account in her name. As instructed, the victim sent an email to an address given and was instructed to download an app, link her bank account to it and provide her login details. The victim did this in the honest-held belief she was helping her partner.
The victim’s bank discovered fraudulent transfers coming in and out of her account, with her own money also being taken, and alerted the victim that she had been a victim of romance fraud.
Spotted a fake profile or been contacted by a fraudster online?
Report the profile anonymously to Scamalytics. Using an online form, you can enter images, names and details of potential fraudsters, and potentially save other people from falling victim to the same scammer in the future.
Spot the Signs of a Romance Fraud victim
The person may be secretive of their relationship and give excuses why they have not met the person.
The person may express strong emotions for someone they have only just met.
They have sent or are planning to send money to the fraudster.
Protect Yourself from Romance Fraud
Don't rush into an online relationship. Get to know the person, not the profile, and ask plenty of questions.
Analyse their profile. 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 and be wary of someone telling you not to talk to friends and family about them.
Evade scams. Never send money or share your bank details with someone you’ve only met online, no matter the reason or how long you've been speaking to them.
Stay on the dating site messenger service. Don't use email, phone, social media or other messaging apps until you’re confident the person you're speaking to is who they say they are.
Safe Against Scams
The West Sussex Community Safety & Wellbeing Team and Trading Standards are running free monthly scams awareness webinars to help you spot the signs.
Thursday 27 January 2022: 10:00 – 11:30am Book here.
Tuesday 15 February 2022: 1:00 – 2:30pm Book here.