£100,000 lost to heartless online ‘romance fraud’ scammers exploiting single people | #onlinescams | #scams | #cybersecurity | #informationsecurity

Around £100,000 has been lost to cruel online dating con-artists in the last three months by single people searching for love in the West Midlands.

Police are warning people to be on guard when searching online for love as new figures reveal a huge loss of money by victims of ‘romance fraud’.

West Midlands Police revealed details of 19 victims of cybercrime who were duped out of around £100,000 by fraudsters across the West Midlands during the coronavirus lockdown.

Police said heartless tricksters set up fake online profiles and build up a rapport with their victim, who believe they have found a trusting companion.

However, the cruel fraudsters will then claim to need money with convincing stories around their job roles and, dependent on the ’relationship’, will ask them to send cash directly or 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.

Police also warned that some con-artists pretend to be volunteers seeking support with raising money for a charity during the lockdown.

The police are urging people to be on their guard against such fraudsters who prey on people’s insecurities.

Kloe Burrows, from West Midlands Police 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.

“It’s important to think when looking for love online and protect yourselves against falling victim to a con-artist.

“They not only cause heartbreak but may stop you connecting with one of the many eligible singletons.”

The 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.”

The police have compiled a list of tips designed to make potential ‘romance fraud’ victims aware of potential scams.

The ‘Think Date’ advice includes:

• 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 your 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.

Victims of romance fraud can contact West Midlands police via LiveChat or go to the Action Fraud website.

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