WEST Mercia Police have issued a warning about the rise in romance fraud where scammers build relationships with victims online in order to exploit them for money.
The police force say the number of reports of these types of frauds remain high and due to the nature of the scam, victims are often too ashamed to report it or are in denial about the actual identity of their scammer.
The warning hopes to increase awareness of the signs of this type of scam because romance fraud not only involves the victims losing money, but can also affect mental wellbeing, as victims can experience feelings of guilt and embarrassment.
Fraudsters continue to target users of popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as well as dating sites such as Tinder and Plenty of Fish. Online gaming platforms can also be used to seek out potential victims.
Females over 40 remain the most common target for romance fraud scams along with younger males, but the police warn older users also need to be aware of the risks on age related dating platforms.
The perpetrators of these crimes will go to great lengths to gain the victims trust by building apparently ‘genuine’ relationships over time.
Victims will then be less suspicious when the scammer begins asking for money, especially when requests from scammers usually cite very sensitive reasons such as medical emergencies, urgent travel costs, payments of fines or taxes or claims of frozen bank accounts.
Police have also given advice on how to spot victims of romance fraud among family and friends.
Things to look out for include potential victims being very secretive about their relationship or providing excuses for why their online partner has not video called or met them in person.
Victims may even be unwilling to discuss their online relationship.
Possible victims may express very strong emotions and commitment to someone they have only recently met online and have never actually met in person.
The biggest clue to look out for is potential victims discussing having sent or planning to send money to someone they have only met online.
Some victims have even been know to take out loans or withdraw money from their pension to send to fraudsters.
Contact Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040 if you’re a victim of a scam.
Scam Text messages can be forwarded to 7726 to help phone providers take early action and block numbers that generate spam on their networks.
Email: [email protected] to report email scams.