As Valentine’s day approaches, North Yorkshire Police is putting an arrow in the heart of criminals, by urging those who are finding love online to take extra care.
Online dating can result in life long partnerships and happy relationships.
However, some people instead of finding love, find themselves on the other end of a scam.
Action Fraud reported that in 2017, 3557 frauds were reported with over £41m lost to romance fraudsters*.
And with evidence suggesting that many of these types of frauds go unreported, the real figure lost to criminals may be higher.
Romance fraud is where a fraudster sets up a fake online dating profile, to form a relationship with a person with the intention to gain their trust and take their money or personal information, in order to steal their identity.
Det Insp Jonathan Rowland of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Fraud and Economic Crime team said: “We don’t want to scare anyone away from using online dating sites and finding relationships online.
“However, we do recommend that people remain aware of the information they are sharing or posting online and be wary of giving away too many personal details when speaking to anyone online.
“A fraudster only needs a few details such as your full name, date of birth or home address in order to piece information together and potentially steal your identity.
“Never share banking details, or send or receive money – even if you believe and trust the person. Stay on the site’s messaging service and do not to switch to social media or texting to communicate.
“It’s also advisable to not open any attachments or links sent to you by someone you have met online.
“If you are going to enter into the online dating world, use a reputable dating website which is a member of the Online Dating Association.
“ODA members have to commit to an industry code of practice that includes honest communication with users and they have to ensure measures are in place to protect your privacy and provide a mechanism for reporting abuse.”
So how can you spot the signs that your new beau may not be the genuine article?
• If they’re asking a lot of personal questions about you, but not sharing too much detail about themselves.
• If they ask for your help, specifically financial help, by using the emotional attachment you’ve built with them.
• Are they just too good to be true? Are their pictures are too perfect, too professional? If yes, then they may be using pictures from modelling sites. It’s an idea to run a reverse image search to check the images haven’t been sourced elsewhere.
If you think you have fallen for the lies of a romance fraudster, don’t be too embarrassed to contact the police. You are not the first person to fall for this type of scam.
Romance fraudsters are experienced, serial fraudsters, who are very good at gaining your trust and taking your money.
Most importantly, don’t send any further money to this person.
The next step is to report in confidence to police, or if you prefer you can contact Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Detective Insp Rowland added: “Please do not feel too embarrassed or foolish to contact the police.
“Sadly, we deal with dozens of fraud cases like this every week and we take each report incredibly seriously. So please pick up the phone, make the call and report it to us.”