A Cambridgeshire woman has spoken out after being defrauded of more than £100,000 in what police are calling a “devastating” romance scam.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, is warning people of the “very professional” con artists who took the large amount of money from her.
Romance fraud, or dating fraud, occurs when someone thinks they’ve met the perfect partner online, but the person is using a fake profile to form a relationship.
They gain the victim’s trust over a number of weeks or months and until they believe they are in a loving and caring relationship.
However, the criminal’s end goal is only ever to get money or personal information.
The victim said: “These people have been taught to do what they do. They are trained and they are very very professional.
“Their aim is to steal your money and, come hell or high water, they will get under your skin and make you care for them, make you believe them and then rob you of everything you have.”
Cambridgeshire Police is joining a country-wide police campaign against the fraud which is commonly carried out in dating apps and social media.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of romance fraud and provide clear protection advice to the public, following a 26 per cent rise in reports to Action Fraud in the last year.
Between August 2019 and August 2020, Action Fraud received more than 400 reports a month from victims of romance fraud in the UK.
Losses reported by victims during this time totalled £66,335,239, equating to an average loss per victim of more than £10,000.
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During June, July and August 2020, Action Fraud received more than 600 reports per month of romance fraud, indicating people may have met, and begun talking to, romance fraudsters during the national lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Fraud lead for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Detective Inspector, Tom Rowe, said: “Romance fraud can have an incredibly detrimental impact upon the victim – not just financially, but also mentally too.
“Police forces across the country and internationally are now working ever more closely to support victims and identify those responsible to bring them to justice.
“Whether you have been affected, or know someone who has, please report to the police as soon as possible.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Alex Rothwell, from the City of London Police, said: “Romance fraud is a devastating crime that impacts victims both financially and emotionally.
“It is a crime that we in policing across the UK, are committed to tackling with help from key partners.
“Through this campaign we want to empower people to understand what to look out for and feel confident that if they have fallen victim to a fraud, to report it to us.
“Criminals are experts at impersonating people. They spend hours researching you for their scams, especially when committing romance fraud.
“We’re reminding everyone to stop and think: fall for the person, not the profile, it could protect you and your money.”
The top five platforms where victims reported first interacting with the criminal committing romance fraud were Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Instagram, Tinder and Match.com.
As part of the campaign the Match Group, who own OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Match.com, are running romance fraud protection adverts throughout October on these platforms, to inform their users how to spot the signs of a romance fraud and how to protect themselves online.
For more advice on romance fraud, visit: www.cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Romance-fraud