Love is in the air, but so is the threat of romance fraud: How not to get scammed by a would-be lover
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Police are warning romantics to not fall head-over-heels for a scammer.
West Mercia Police have issued a warning for those looking for love online this romantic season.
Last year, romance scam reports increased by more than a fifth (22 per cent) compared with 2022, according to data from Lloyds Bank.
The data said the average amount lost by a victim was nearly £7,000 - with victims aged 65 to 74 losing more than £13,000 on average.
With Valentine's Day approaching, West Mercia Police have issued advice for those on the hunt for romance.
A spokesperson for the force said: "Most UK dating websites and chatrooms are legitimate, but fraudsters have been known to use them to steal people’s money.
"Dating and romance scammers lower their target’s defences by building an online relationship, then asking for larger and larger sums of money.
"Well-meaning men and women have both fallen victim to this."
What you should know
Be wary of giving out personal information on a website or chatroom. Scammers will quickly contact you, often showing you glamorous photos of themselves and gaining your trust.
But how do you know the person you’re talking to (or their photo) is genuine? The answer is that you don’t.
A scammer will make conversation more personal to get information out of you, but won’t tell you much about themselves that you can check or verify.
They’ll normally steer you away from chatting on a legitimate dating site that staff could monitor. They want you to talk on email, text and phone, rather than through the dating site or chatroom where you met.
A scammer tells stories to target your emotions and get you to give them money. They may claim they have an ill relative or are stranded in a country they don’t want to be in.
They may not ask you directly for money, hoping instead that you’ll offer it out of the goodness of your heart. You must not.
Never send money abroad to someone you’ve never met. Never send it to anyone you don’t actually know and trust.
Likewise, never agree to keep your online relationship a secret. This is a ploy to get you not to tell your family and friends, who’ll see the scam for exactly what it is.
Equally, don’t accept any offer of money. A scammer may ask you to accept money from them into your own bank account, using a convincing story as to why they can’t use their own account. The circumstances may seem genuine, but you could unwittingly be laundering money, a criminal offence.
For more information and help or to report these and many other types of fraud, visit the Action Fraud website: actionfraud.police.uk