Detective Inspector Andy Myers
Officers have issued a reminder that "fraudsters have no scruples about exploiting people’s emotions" when it comes to getting their hands on people's cash.
These scams involve criminals duping people out of money after they have gained their trust, meaning requests for money do not seem strange. Often these pleas involve claims about needing medical care or transport costs to visit a victim overseas.
Scammers often build up this trust over a long period of time.
Signs of romance fraud
Cumbria Constabulary have urged people not to do any of the following if they have never met someone in person:
Send them any money
Allow them access to your bank account
Transfer money on their behalf
Take a loan out for them
Provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses
Invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice
Purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes
Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf (laptops, mobile phones etc.)
How to report it
If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed - you are not alone. Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.
This particular type of crime has risen dramatically during the pandemic.
Between November 2020 and October 2021 police in Cumbria received 63 reports of romance fraud, with victims in the county losing a total of £853,600, with it affecting both men and women equally.
Detective Inspector Andy Myers from the cyber and digital crime unit said: “Typically, romance fraudsters will spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust, feeding them fabricated stories about who they are and their lives - and initially make no suggestion of any desire to ask for any money, so the victim may believe their new love interest is genuine.
“But weeks, or sometimes months later, these criminals will ask for money for a variety of emotive reasons and as the emotional relationship has already been formed, victims often transfer money without a second thought.
“We’re calling on friends and family members of people who are dating online to help make them aware of the warning signs that they could be falling victim to fraud, particularly if the person dating online is not particularly tech savvy.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Many of us are aware of romance fraud but we don’t always consider the fact that anyone can fall victim to this type of scam.
“Cyber criminals will say anything to gain the trust of their victim and emotionally manipulate them into sending money for a number of reasons.
“This is why it is so important that we know how to keep ourselves safe from fraud and other aspects of cyber-crime, which is why I commission Get Safe Online for Cumbria."
That website contains advice on how to prevent becoming a victim of cyber-crime and can be found here.
Police Scotland also has a web page with advice on romance fraud.
If you have been a victim of fraud report it to the Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.