New campaign launched to increase awareness of the dangers of online romance scams
Crimestoppers is warning people in Wales to be aware of romance fraudsters operating online.
According to the crime fighting charity, it’s estimated that the average victim loses £10,000 during the period of a dating scam and across the UK victims of romance fraud are scammed out of almost £100 million per year
Launching a new campaign in partnership with Tarian, the police Regional Cyber Crime Unit (RCCU), people are being warned of the danger signs to look out for.
It also challenges the stereotype that it is only women who are victims of dating scams.
In fact, victims come from all ages, genders, sexual orientations, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Nearly 45% of men are victims and gay men appear to be disproportionately targeted, accounting for over 12% of victims overall in 2021.
Despite being underreported, in 2021 reports on romance fraud rose by 30% in comparison to 2020. This, in turn, was a 20% increase compared to 2019 in the UK.
Hayley Fry, Regional Manager at the charity Crimestoppers, said: “In a changing world, where the first steps of dating are online and no longer face-to-face, it’s important to be sensible and aware of the warning signs.
“You are within your rights to double check details given by the other person to make sure they’re genuine and don’t be afraid to challenge if you aren’t sure and your gut instinct tells you something might be wrong.
“It’s very clear that victims are impacted not just financially. It also takes its toll on their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Always remember to stop and think to ensure you’re protecting yourself against a potential romance fraudster.”
How romance scammers operate
Fraudsters could be individuals acting alone, or more commonly they may be a part of an international organised crime group.
A range of potential victims can be contacted simultaneously. Profiles are carefully tailored to appeal to potential victims who may be lonely or looking for a connection or a romantic partner.
The scammers create false profiles using fake or stolen images which is known as catfishing. They are careful to not set off alarm bells when they ask for money by keeping up stories, dropping pieces of information over time, often over months or even years and by building a wider story on why their need is urgent or must be kept a secret.
They often hide behind fake documents and use their victim’s money across complex networks of money mules, cryptocurrency investments, moving money in and out of the UK.
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