A total of 3,889 victims were defrauded out of £39 million from online-dating fraud in 2016 according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the BBC reports.
Each victim loses £10,000 on average, the deputy head of the UK’s cybercrime reporting centre Action Fraud told the BBC. And the number of victims has risen from 2,824 in 2013, figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau show.
Masking as a love interest, the so-called “romance scam” fraudsters build up trust with their victims and then ask them for money “for a variety of emotive reasons,” Action Fraud says on its website.
By inventing scenarios they coerce their victims into sending over funds. Typical scenarios are that they need funds for a flight home as a military personnel based overseas, for surgery or other medical-related issues, or to fund a visit to see the victim, according to Action Fraud.
And they insist on communicating via instant messaging and texts instead of the website on which they find their victims, this is one of Action Fraud’s “tell-tale signs.”
A single mother from North Yorkshire is now facing bankruptcy after losing more than £300,000. A fraudster she met on Match.com claimed he had been mugged and that his son needed surgery, “… then it was money for food, money needed to pay rent, money for taxes to get out of Turkey.” she told the BBC.
Action Fraud provides the following online safety advice:
- Criminals who commit romance fraud trawl through profiles and piece together information such as wealth and lifestyle, in order to manipulate their victims.
- Police can investigate and help to provide support, but often cannot get the money back.
- It is very simple for fraudsters to cover their tracks by masking IP addresses and using unregistered phone numbers.
- Never send money to someone online you have never met.
- Think twice about posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you.