Fringe Box



Romance May Be in The Air, But So Are The Swindlers After Your Money

Published on: 9 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 9 Oct, 2020

Romance fraud is an extremely costly affair and smooth-talking fraudsters have swindled 69 Surrey victims a painful £2,414,914 between January and September, a shocking 45% rise on the similar period last year.

Now Surrey Police have joined a national campaign through October, co-ordinated by City of London Police, to raise awareness of the devastating crime and warn prospective victims.

Nationally, reports to Action Fraud rose 26% in the past year. Surrey Police had 100 reports from January to September that cost the victims nearly £2,500,000.

Most romance or dating frauds start online. Lonely people, often women, fall for a fake profile, thinking they’ve met the perfect partner. Over weeks or months they are conned into believing they have a loving and caring relationship. But the target is their money or personal information and the conmen are very persuasive and manipulative.

One recently conned a 42-year-old woman from Surrey out of £2,500. Over three months, she was led to believe she had found someone special online who understood and cared about her. But money crept into the conversation when the suspect claimed he was stuck in another country and needed funds to get home.

The victim sent £2,500 as well as a photo of her ID, which displayed her full name, date of birth and address. She then got an email from someone claiming to be from a foreign government, asking her to make personal contact concerning her “boyfriend” being stuck abroad. The victim became suspicious and contacted police.

Far from the popular idea that only the gullible or vulnerable fall for a romance scam, the reality is that the criminals are highly skilled manipulators of language, using techniques designed to make victims feel at ease, and disguise any cause for concern. Almost anyone can fall victim.

“Romance fraud is a dreadfully exploitative crime which preys on people’s desire to connect with others and has a devastating personal impact,” said Detective Chief Inspector Rob Walker, from Surrey and Sussex Police’s Economic Crime Unit.

“Victims can sometimes feel too embarrassed at being caught out but we would encourage anyone who has experienced any type of fraud to report it to us so it can be investigated.

“Our priority is identifying and supporting victims of romance fraud with our dedicated victim caseworkers, our peer support group for victims and our year-round activity to raise awareness of fraud.”

T/Detective Chief Superintendent Alex Rothwell, from the City of London Police, said: “Romance fraud is a devastating crime that impacts victims financially and emotionally. It is a crime we are committed to tackling.

“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 impersonation. 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. That could protect you and your money.”

Here’s how to spot signs of romance fraud:

  • Be wary of giving out any personal information to someone you don’t know. This could be your address, even if it seems to be for a harmless reason such as sending you a gift or flowers;
  • Never agree to keep your online relationship a secret;
  • It’s a big red flag if someone keeps making excuses not to video chat or meet in person;.
  • Get to know the person and not the profile;
  • Never send money or share your bank details on the platform, even if you’re told a story which pulls at your heartstrings and seems like a genuine emergency;
  • Stay on the dating messenger service until confident the person is who they say they are; and
  • Run a search on the internet for their name or any picture they have sent along with the term “scam”.

No matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you trust them, if you haven’t met them in person 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 licences;
  • Invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice;
  • Purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes; or
  • Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf (laptops, mobile phones etc).

During October, the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, will be co-ordinating enforcement activity across the UK and overseas, to target, and ultimately arrest, criminals suspected of committing romance fraud.

Officer will also work with money transfer companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram, to roll-out an initiative, introduced by Sussex Police, across the whole of the UK, to block any money transfer from overseas if suspected to be the result of a romance fraud.

Dating sites The Match Group, who own OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and, are running romance fraud protection adverts through October to inform users how to spot signs of a romance fraud and how to protect themselves online.

Operation Signature is Surrey Police’s campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud. They publish a monthly fraud newsletter about scams in their area and have a wealth of advice on how to protect yourself and your money at .

This romance fraud campaign is the second phase of the National Economic Crime Centre’s (NECC) operation to combat fraud, Operation Otello, and follows a successful campaign, co-ordinated by the City of London Police, targeting courier fraud in early 2020.

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