Dating app crime has risen by a quarter in just two years, police figures show, amid evidence that criminals are exploiting vulnerable women from their jail cells with illegal phones.
Crime reports linked to dating apps including Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Grindr rose by 24 per cent to 903 from 727 in 2018, according to the figures, based on Freedom of Information requests from 25 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
More than half (550) involved sex offences, 422 stalking or harassment, and 400 concerned theft with women or men being scammed out of tens of thousands of pounds.
Separate figures from Action Fraud show there were nearly 7,000 reports of so-called ‘romance fraud’ last year, costing victims almost £70 million, a rise of 20 per cent.
One prisoner, Jamie, who is in his early 20s, told BBC’s File on Four that for the last few years he has made money by using an illegal phone to scam women, usually those a lot older than him, who were looking for love.
“It was a last resort kind of thing, I just saw how easy it was,” he said. “The most I ever got from a girl was £10,000… every week she was sending me £100, £200. I’ve forgotten her name now, I don’t see it as a relationship, I [saw] it as work.”
He said his accounts were blocked after the victims reported them, but he was never punished for the frauds. He said people using dating apps should watch out for men contacting them who are a lot younger or “better looking”, who start asking for money, especially if they have never met in person.
Fraudster Amir Tofangsazan, 33, was in the open prison, HMP Ford, when he used a mobile phone he obtained on day release to contact three women on dating apps whom he conned into handing him money. He was caught and jailed for three more years.
The Ministry of Justice’s digital forensics unit has uncovered prisoners using dating apps to arrange illegal liaisons from their cells.
A prison service spokesman said: “Anyone found with a mobile phone in prison is subject to additional punishments, including spending longer behind bars.”
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