LOVE might be in the air around Valentine’s Day, but Dyfed-Powys Police is urging people to be wary of who they meet on dating websites after saving potential victims from sending £52,000 to fraudsters.
The force’s Financial Crime Team has offered advice to people dating online to help stop their heart – and their finances – take a bruising.
Romance fraud is where fraudsters set up fake profiles to form relationships with unsuspecting people looking for a genuine partner on dating websites. They use the site to gain your trust and ask you for money or enough personal information to steal your identity.
Over the past six months, Dyfed-Powys Police has stopped people from being conned out of a total of £52,000 in romance fraud cases through the banking protocol – a scheme that sees bank staff trained in how to spot signs that a customer may be withdrawing cash to give to a scammer. Since the scheme was set up, the force has been able to save people a total of £156,841 – with 33 per cent of calls taken (or £52,000) connected to romance fraud.
Fraud investigator Dawn Jones said: “The majority of accounts on dating websites are genuine people, but sadly there are fraudsters who might try to contact you by making a fake profile, using a fictional name or taking on the identity of real trusted people, and building what feels like a loving relationship.
“Without wanting to sound cynical, what we’re asking people to bear in mind is that your perfect online partner might not be who they say they are.
“There are certain things fraudsters tend to do, which should set alarm bells ringing – for example they will express strong emotions within a short space of time. They may ask you to move away from the app or website and use a more personal, private means of contact, such as email, instant messaging, or over the phone. They might even send you gifts and shower you with compliments to make you feel special.
“Once they’re confident that they’ve won your trust, they will pretend to confide in you and tell you about a fictional problem that they need money for – maybe for a sick relative, to pay taxes, or even to pay for flights to come and see you. Whichever way they chose to ask for money you could end up losing a lot – and the money you send is almost impossible to recover.”
The force has offered advice to anyone using online dating sites:
*Avoid giving away too many personal details when dating online – revealing your full name, date of birth and home address might leave to your identity being stolen.
*Never send or receive money, or give away or bank details to someone you’ve only met online, no matter how much you trust them or believe their story.
*Pick a reputable dating website and use the site’s messaging service. Fraudsters want to quickly switch to social media or texting so there’s no evidence of asking you for money.
If you become a victim of romance fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, as well as to the dating site where you met, no matter how embarrassing you might think it is. This could result in recovering your money (although this is unusual), and help others from becoming victims to the same person.
Dial 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger or at risk of harm.