North Wales Police issues ‘romance fraud’ warning ahead of Valentine’s Day
North Wales Police are warning residents to be on guard against romance fraud ahead of Valentine’s Day next week.
Crime Commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, and the Economic Crime Unit of North Wales Police are joining forces to warn residents that some criminals are more interested in swiping someone’s money than sweeping them off their feet.
Dating websites are littered with fake profiles created by criminals whose intention is to manipulate, take advantage and trick people into handing over money.
These fake profiles are designed to appear attractive and use images stolen from the internet to disguise the scammer’s true identity.
A 68-year-old woman from north Wales was scammed out of £12,000 after falling victim to multiple romance fraudsters.
One suspect sent her an image of an injured person in hospital, claiming it to be a picture of himself and asked for money to pay the hospital bills.
Another told her he was a doctor in Iraq and needed money to get out of his contract with the US Army so that he could return home to his daughter.
A further suspect said he had an inheritance owed to him by the Turkish government and asked for £20,000 in legal fees to release millions of dollars.
A recent suspect requested money after telling the victim he worked on an oil rig off the coast of Scotland.
He seemed to be aware of a previous financial loss the victim had suffered and offered to help her get her money back by putting her in touch with a friend in the FBI.
This led to the victim believe he was genuine so she sent money for transport off the rig, but he repeatedly cancelled for various reasons.
He sent the victim emails supposedly from his 9-year-old daughter asking for money and claimed he had lost his phone and wallet at sea, so his bank accounts had been blocked.
The victim was reassured that he would pay her back once he had returned home from the rig.
The victim’s daughter contacted North Wales Police reporting that her mother had met someone online and that he had asked for money and officers intervened.
The Commissioner and North Wales Police are warning people to never send money, feel pressured to stop using an official dating site and to think carefully about if information can be verified.
There are several warning signs that point to an online acquaintance being a fraudster, one of which is the current situation they claim to be in.
Typically, a criminal will say they are abroad in a remote country, working on an oil rig, in the army or in a line of work that makes it difficult for a victim to verify the what they are told.
Criminals will also be very flattering, attentive and will message the victim frequently, building trust and emotional attachment.
They may even draw a victim in by disclosing a personal problem to gain sympathy.
Romance fraudsters will often talk about a future together but will make excuses as to why a meeting can’t take place.
They are usually reluctant to take part in a video or voice call and insist on the conversation taking place by message only.
Eventually the fraudster will begin asking for money to help with a fabricated issue and will manipulate the victim into feeling guilty.
The victim may also be asked to accept money into their bank account from another source to send to the suspect.
This money is likely to have come from another victim of fraud and the victim is being used to launder money, which is a criminal offence.
Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales Police said: “Online dating has become ever more popular in recent years and most of the time it’s harmless and good natured.
“But as well as the genuine romance seekers on these sites, there are also romance fraudsters who are heartlessly looking for their next victim.
“A genuine love interest wouldn’t ask for money or pressurise you into doing something you are uneasy with.
“So stay safe online, ensure the person you are speaking to is actually who they say they are, and don’t fall prey to a romance trickster. Remember to always Stop, Challenge and Check!”
Since the pandemic romance fraud has been on the rise and organised crime groups can be convincing using tactics they’ve developed over time to isolate and manipulate victims.
DC Rachel Roberts, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer, North Wales Police said: “I speak with many victims who find it hard to accept that everything they have been told it a lie and this, coupled with a large financial loss, can be devastating.
“I would urge everyone who meets others online to be on their guard and refuse any request for money.
“It is important to remember that, as well as the distress caused to victims here in north Wales, the money being sent to these criminals is used to fund further crime, including human trafficking, drug offences and even terrorism.”
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