Authorities in the UK will advise Ghanaian police on the damage of so-called ‘romance scams’ in a bid to tackle the £90mn problem of children abroad being groomed into catfishing and defrauding people in Britain.
Nik Adams, leading the UK police’s response to fraud, told The Telegraph that a joint effort would deliver preventative measures to combat ‘schools’ set up to teach children how to find and target wealthy single women online.
He said: ‘It is about trying to build the moral courage for people to choose not to engage in that type of criminal behaviour. There are multiple approaches [to tackling fraud] – hard-edge law enforcement and some really powerful prevention work.’
The scheme is part of a bid for law enforcement agencies in the UK to share intelligence and training with their equivalents in Ghana to clamp down on scams.
Scammers often target older and more vulnerable internet users in ‘romance scams’
Through the scheme, officers in Britain have shared information with authorities in Ghana to build a better picture of the experiences of victims, which they hope can be used to deter would-be scammers from causing harm.
Adams told The Telegraph he had seen Ghanaian police deliver Prevent-style training, aimed at teaching young people about the consequences of scamming victims.
Meanwhile, in the Volta Region of southeast Ghana, 35,000 high school students have been taught how to avoid a range of common scams.
The partnership is hoped to shape future collaboration with authorities across Africa and Asia.
Prevent training has been rolled out in the UK as a legal requirement for specified authorities where there are risks of radicalisation.
The training aims at stopping terrorist attacks happening and strengthening the UK’s protective against extremism through intervention.
It was part of the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy introduced in 2003 under the Blair administration and since revised several times.
In 2020, the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) launched a campaign to tackle romance fraud through awareness raising and greater enforcement activity, after incidence shot up 26% year-on-year.
The campaign led to the identification of 38 victims of romance fraud, leading to arrests.
The Irish Garda National Economic Crime Bureau – working with the City of London Police – raised similar concerns and also made arrests.
The start of cooperation with Ghanaian authorities led to £115,000 being repatriated with victims of such scams in the UK.
The United States’ embassy in Ghana has also issued warnings about romance scams from Ghana, urging citizens to ‘be alert’ to attempts at fraud by people seeking friendship or romantic interest online.
The embassy said that a ‘quick transition to discussion of intimate matters’ could be a warning sign of ‘fraudulent intent’.
They note scammers may even build a relationship over several months before asking for money – but ‘eventually they will ask for it’.
Many Americans, they wrote, have reported losing thousands through scams and are generally unlikely to be able to recoup their losses.
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