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Commissioner asks communities to remain vigilant of romance fraud

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire is urging people in Cheshire to remain vigilant of romance fraud, which begins to have its most devastating impact between now and Valentine’s Day.

ActionFraud and the City of London Police have launched a romance scams campaign, raising awareness of the issue which has seen almost £92m lost in the last year. Constabularies and Commissioners around the country are joining them in raising awareness of the issue.

According to the ActionFraud website, there was a spike of 901 reports of romance fraud in March 2021, which related to relationships struck up between Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “In my Police and Crime Plan, I set out my commitment to tackling fraud and cyber crime, which includes online scams such as romance fraud. I will ensure that the Constabulary has the most up-to-date technology to enable them to do this effectively.

“Scammers and cyber criminals have been able to hone their craft throughout the pandemic as more of our interactions have been online. This can mean that some of their tactics may be difficult for people to spot.

“If you know someone who has started an online relationship recently and are worried they may be a victim of fraud, try and chat to them about it. Romance fraudsters will spend a large amount of time gaining their victim’s trust. In the beginning they may make no mention of money in order to establish a love connection, but they will build up to it.”

According to Action Fraud, despite romance fraud reports and losses of £8.7 million reported in March last year, a big financial spike came two months later in May where even greater losses of £14.6 million were reported.

John Dwyer added: “Once a connection is formed, then the criminals will ask for money, and the victim might hand it over without giving it a second thought. We need to ensure these eye-watering sums are not lost to fraudsters.

“If you can chat to your friends and family members about the warning signs and make them aware of what is going on, we may be able to stop some of these fraudsters in their tracks.”

Some of the tactics fraudsters use to steal money from their victim’s via romance scams is to:

  • Ask for money to travel to see the victim
  • Ask for money to pay for emergency medical treatment/expenses
  • Offer lucrative investment opportunities
  • Purport to work overseas or in the armed forces

How to help protect people you know are online dating

  • Help your friends and family to ensure they have adequate privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure strangers don’t have access to their personal information.
  • Stay in regular contact with your friends and family who are online dating to help spot any changes in behaviour or things that don’t seem right.
  • Make friends and family aware of the signs of romance fraud so that they are conscious of the tactics criminals use to carry out these scams and reiterate that you should never transfer money to someone that you have never met in person.
  • Encourage people to report to Action Fraud and the police if they have become a victim of romance fraud and not to be embarrassed about doing so.

You can report fraud online at ActionFraud here:

https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk/login

Alternatively call the Police on 101, in the case of an emergency dial 999.

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