Lincolnshire Trading Standards, Lincolnshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner are advising those who are looking to start a new relationship online or via a dating app to watch out for ‘romance scams’.
Sally Gray, senior trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Online dating can be a great way to find romance and companionship, but unfortunately its also a very common way to be scammed.
“Romance fraud involves a stranger setting up a fake online identity or online profile, in order to enter into a relationship with someone. The intention is then to scam them out of their personal funds, or figure out their personal information.”
Nick Bates, Preventing Financial Fraud & Op REVIVE coordinator at Lincolnshire Police, added: “Shockingly, last year, more than £50m was lost to romance fraud in the UK. This demonstrates the sheer scale of the problem.
“This fraud can have an devastating effect on the victim - not just economically, by losing large amounts of money, but also emotionally when the victim learns he/she isn’t in a legitimate relationship.”
Stuart Tweedale, deputy police and crime commissioner for Lincolnshire, said: “I’m hearing about romance scams fairly regularly- more than I ever would have thought possible! Anecdotally, it’s probably about once a week, and that’s only to me whilst I’m out meeting the public.
“What’s clear is that it can happen to anyone. If it’s happened to you and you’ve become a victim of a romance scam – please do not feel foolish. These con artists are professionals that have been specially trained to deceive people.”
If you have you think you have been the victim of fraud, or you know this is happening to someone, contact Lincolnshire Police on 101 or report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Top five tips to help you steer clear of a romance fraud are:
1. Take your time. Get to know the person and ask plenty of questions.
2. Analyse their profile. Check the person is genuine by putting their details (photo and name) in to Google. Also put the phrase ‘dating scam’ in next to their details.
3. Talk more. Talk to your friends and family about who you are talking to online. Be suspicious of anyone who says keep quiet about your relationship.
4. Don’t give money. Never send money or share your bank details with someone you’ve met online.
5. Don’t overshare personal details. Revealing your full name, date of birth, home address or workplace could lead to fraud, identity theft or even personal harm. Protect the names, details, and locations of your children or family members.
• For more information on keeping safe from scams, visit: www.actionfraud.police.uk