Hampshire Police are supporting a new campaign to help tackle romance fraud, as figures reveal residents lost at least £3.1million through dating scams between November 2020 and October last year.
And they are urging family members of online daters to help protect their relatives from becoming a victim of romance fraud.
In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, more than half of victims were women (56 per cent), while more than a third (34 per cent) were men. One in ten did not specify their gender.
March was the month where most frauds took place (34), followed by 29 in July and 25 in October.
There were a total of 262 reports during the 12-month period.
Residents aged between 50 and 59 were the most at risk of romance fraud, with 54 people (more than a fifth of all victims) in that age bracket losing money to fraudsters.
This was followed by people aged between 60 and 69 (52 people) and those aged between 30 and 39 (46 people).
Criminals often use a range of stories to get victims to transfer them money without it raising suspicion.
The stories are often believable, to a certain extent, and something that the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.
Examples of stories include funding travel to visit the victim, money to pay for emergency medical expenses, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.
Detective Inspector Andy Symes, of Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Romance fraud occurs when you think you have met the perfect partner online but they are using a fake profile to form a relationship with you.
“You can meet them via an online dating website or app, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, or gaming sites.
“They gain your trust over a number of weeks or months and have you believe you are in a loving and caring relationship. However, the criminal’s end goal is only ever to get your money or personal information.
“We can see from the recent figures that sadly, people living in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have fallen victim to fraudsters.
“We would like to remind those who are online dating, and their family members, to take appropriate steps to make sure they do not become targets for online criminals.”
How to help protect people you know are online dating:
- Help your friends and family to ensure they have adequate privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure strangers don’t have access to their personal information.
- Stay in regular contact with your friends and family who are online dating to help spot any changes in behaviour or things that don’t seem right.
- Make friends and family aware of the signs of romance fraud so that they are conscious of the tactics criminals use to carry out these scams and reiterate that you should never transfer money to someone that you have never met in person.
- Encourage people to report to Action Fraud and the police if they have become a victim of romance fraud and not to be embarrassed about doing so.
If you think you’ve been a victim of romance fraud or a romance-based scam contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.