Romance scammers pocket almost £3million targeting vulnerable online daters
Hundreds of people in Kent have reported being targeted by romance scams.
A total of 248 dating and romance-related scams were recorded in the county by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau between November 2020 and October 2021.
Fraudsters pocketed £2.9 million in total, detectives say.
Most of the victims were aged between 40 and 70, and more than half were women.
Police are warning scammers can spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust before asking for money for a variety of emotive reasons.
The actual number of romance scams are thought to be considerably higher than the number of recorded crimes as victims often feel too hurt and embarrassed to come forward.
Fraudsters use a range of stories to get victims to transfer them money without it raising suspicion.
The stories are often believable, and something that the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.
Examples of stories criminals may use:
They need money to pay for travel to visit the victim
They need money to pay for emergency medical expenses
They offer lucrative investment opportunities
They pretend to be military personnel or working overseas.
Spot the signs:
They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
They ask you lots of questions about yourself, but don’t tell you much about themselves.
They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work.
Don’t be convinced by proﬁle pictures as they may have been taken from somewhere else on the internet.
Kent Police is supporting a national two-week awareness campaign to help online daters and their families spot the signs of romance fraud.
Detective Inspector Helen Smithers from Kent Police’s Serious Economic Crime Unit said: "Victims are being conned out of their savings and left heartbroken because of these criminals and we want to do everything we can to prevent innocent people from being exploited.
"We know how this type of offending can affect people and there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.
"They will try every trick in the book to get people to part with their money, innocent people who think they are in a loving relationship and we want to find the criminals responsible for that.
"We urge people to protect themselves online and to look out for their friends and family, especially those most vulnerable in our society.
"Anyone who thinks they are being targeted or has been a victim of dating fraud should report it immediately. This information will continue to help us to identify and track down these heartless offenders and bring them to justice."
To report fraud contact Action Fraud via their website, or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also contact Kent Police by visiting www.kent.police.uk or by calling 101 if you do not have access to the internet.
In the event of an emergency, or if a crime is in progress, always call 999. Incidents can also be reported to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or by completing their online form.