Police forces and organisations across the UK are running campaigns throughout October to raise awareness of romance fraud.
More than 600 romance scams were reported per month during June, July, and August – a 26% rise on 2019.
The rise is attributable to the stark increase in online and virtual dating during the Coronavirus lockdown, with scammers exploiting victim’s desires for more human contact whilst locked down.
Romance fraud, or dating fraud, occurs when people think they have met the perfect partner online but their “date” is using a fake profile to form a relationship. They gain the victim’s trust over weeks or months but the criminal’s end goal is to get the victim’s money or personal information.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: “Lockdown restrictions meant people could not meet in person for a number of months, which led to many seeking to form new connections online.
“Whilst using the internet can be a great way to meet people and form relationships, there’s also a great risk of being lured into a romance scam as fraudsters know how to take advantage of people’s desire for human contact.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen that circumstances caused by coronavirus were in fact used by fraudsters as a ‘hook’ to extort money. For example, some have invented lies about needing medical treatment, or urgent travel expenses to leave a country, or funds to keep afloat after a bogus job loss caused by the pandemic.”
George Kidd, chief executive of the Online Dating Association, which is also involved in the campaign said: “We use technology and human moderation to block fake profiles, create safer messaging platforms, and increasing use of video chat and photo verification that makes it harder still to invent a profile and get away with it.”
The average victim of romance fraud loses £10,000. Losses reported by victims between August 2019 and August 2020 totalled £66,335,239.
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