In the last financial year, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) received 8,036 reports of romance fraud, amounting to over £92m lost, with an average loss per victim of £11,500, new data shows. The new data comes as City of London Police marks World Romance Scam Prevention Day on October 3.

Romance fraud is when people are defrauded into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship.

Fraudsters continue to use a range of tools and techniques to systematically groom, isolate and manipulate victims to ultimately exploit them for financial gain. They use fake personas, sites and companies, fabricated narratives and false documents to bolster those narratives.

The façade of a genuine relationship is built and there is an onslaught of gaslighting, coercive control and emotional blackmail creating an unhealthy emotional dependence.

Detective Superintendent Gary Miles, from the City of London Police, said:

“Despite being a 6.7 per cent reduction on last year’s reports of 8,710, romance fraud continues to have devastating emotional and financial consequences for victims across the UK. Many victims of romance fraud are meant to feel that they are alone and that they are at fault, however the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Romance fraudsters rely on the kindness and compassionate nature within us all, where highly manipulative and coercive techniques are used to exploit this for their own gain. Romance fraud can result in people having their hard earned savings wiped out, in tens of thousands of pounds in debt and also, in some extreme cases, having to remortgage their homes.

“We endeavour to continue the fight against romance fraudsters both in the UK and overseas, so people can not only protect their money but also prevent long-term emotional psychological damage from callous criminals.”

Vicky, a victim of Emmanuel Scott, details her first-hand experience of being manipulated by a romance fraudster:

“They look for your weaknesses and mine is my son and not having his dad around.  He made a point of being interested in everything my son did. Taking time to talk to him when we were on the phone together and praising him. He praised me constantly on what a great job I was doing bringing him up on my own, telling me he wanted to take care of me.”

Kathy Waters, co-founder of Advocating Against Romance Scammers, said:

“Romance fraud should not be a silent crime. The stigmas surrounding the scams are from the lack of education and awareness pertaining to how the scams are formulated and executed. By providing ongoing education, and tools for romance fraud prevention, countless romance scams can be interjected. World Romance Scam Prevention Day is a great day to recognize how many are here to help, and remind everyone they are not never alone!” 

How to stay safe from romance fraudsters:

  • Be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.
  • Be cautious about how much information about yourself you are sharing online and who you are sharing information with.
  • Speak to your family or friends to get advice. Fraudsters will subtly isolate you for their own purposes.
  • Profile photos may not be genuine. Performing a reverse image search  can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else.

It is important that no matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you think you trust them, if you have not met them in person it’s important that you do not:

  • 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
  • Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf (laptops, mobile phones etc.).

Romance fraud is one of the top five most commonly reported frauds to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Action Fraud also run the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit (NECVU) which provides support and advice to victims of fraud and to help prevent them from being victim to fraud again.

To report fraud to Action Fraud, fill out the online fraud reporting tool or call 0300 123 2040.

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